Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Radio Daze

So is ignorance really bliss? Or is it self-destructive?

As I've commented before, the problem with the digital divide is that it's completely insular. The firestorms of controversy and criticism that sweep through the online community are completely unknown to those offline.

Commercial radio thrashes about desperately trying just about anything to hold on to a shrinking (and aging) audience. The frantic pushing of HD Radio shows that commercial broadcasters know that something's wrong -- and their approach shows they have not a clue about what audiences want, or how to provide it.

The answers are online -- and the answer is to move online. But the decision-makers at these stations live offline. And so they never see the solution -- or are even aware it's out there in (virtual) plain view.

Here're three examples of where we are:

1) Audiographics bids adieu
Ken Dardis, a radio professional who's been pushing and prodding the industry for years, has finally given up. In his final post he writes:

...the decision will be either to stop writing altogether (because it doesn't seem that radio is interested in how to step into the future), or to write about these new things I'm learning which are turning the advertising industry on its head (and which have been brought up in this column hundreds of times).
After writing, and documenting and analysing the path radio needs to take, Dardis is through trying to shout across the digital divide. He's moving on. And who could blame him?

2) Hear 2.0 turns up the heat
Mark Ramsey, another radio professional, has continually commented and pointed the way for radio. In a recent post, he took the gloves off (and not for the first time):

It's time for radio to stop imagining that success can be achieved by consolidating and cutting until one day your entire group is run from a PC in a locked room like W.O.P.R. in the 1983 movie Wargames. No need for PD's or air talent in that world. No need for marketing or research or promotion or staff. No need for anything but sales and - if you're lucky - an ever-diminishing number of listeners. It's Dabney Coleman and a big Central Brain that asks millions of listeners at once: "Want to play a game?"
Is that the kind of radio industry you want? Because if you mistake the current down market for a cycle rather than a trend, that's exactly the one you're going to get.

Looks like Ramsey is also getting a little tired of shouting across that divide.

3) At WJMA, nothing's changed
It's been a little while since I offered up an analysis of the ramshackle website of our local radio station WJMA. It's been a while, but the DJ's page is still "under construction," the job page still wants someone for "overseas programming" and the news page is still blank with a date of November 9.

Lots of people read those posts -- even some in the Orange area. And yet, no comment for any of the posts, and no change. Piedmont Communications remain incommunicado -- offline.

It's one thing for an individual to opt out of the online experience. But for a business in decline to steadfastly refuse to consider investigating the most important cultural tool of the 21st century? That kind of ignorance can be fatal.

- Ralph

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