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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Radio: A Great Place to Work?

I have just completed reading a massive study on the Best Places to Work. Guess what? Radio doesn't fare very well.

It's fascinating in that the study takes into account issues that get to the root of what makes employees happy and productive:

* The Credibility Index
* The Respect Index

The study consists of approximately 40 statements that cover company credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie as well as agree/disagree statements about the work experience and satisfaction of the work along with how the company itself contributes to employee feelings of fulfillment.

The radio industry performs so poorly on employee job satisfaction, job fulfillment and company credibility that it has a negative score. This means that more people are leaving the industry than are joining it and a high percentage (29%) of those who remain employed in the business are either worried about their future with the company they are with or are seeking other employment.

When one considers all of the issues facing the radio industry mid-2007, I don't believe companies place employee satisfaction or fulfillment near the top of the list. The most important matters of financial and legal stability remain at the top of lists.

In one intriguing comparison report, company management rank "employee morale and job fulfillment" as one of their top three most important issues.

The same questionnaire filled out by company employees ranks "employee morale and job fulfillment" out of the top 10 most important issues employees believe are considered by their employers.

The radio industry has its problems whether it be audience attrition or technology challenges but it has become so myopic in its view of the world when it comes to the welfare of its most important resource - its people - that until the industry returns to treating its people with respect, caring about their futures, and motivating employees all of the other challenges the industry faces will hardly have a chance of being overcome.

Many of managers and radio industry employees I speak with have known for some time that radio is no longer an industry that lives up to the promise it did 30 years ago, but to see the industry I love rank so low in black & white, truly brings home where things stand.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chicken Little?

I just returned from the "New Media Seminar 10" in New York City. It's an event sponsored by industry publication "Talkers Magazine" published by long-time industry visionary Michael Harrison. The event draws about 600 programmers, managers and related people who are tied to the news/talk radio industry.

Great group of people. Excellent seminars. Thought-provoking commentaries. Stimulating cocktail party discussions.

Yet, some of the buzz being dispensed to the attendees this year is that "terrestrial radio"is in serious trouble if it doesn't get its act together. There was a sense among those there that news/talk and talk radio is the salvation of terrestrial radio primarily because music radio is dead, dead and more dead. It's this MP3 player thing that's going around.

I respect all of those in attendance who got up on the dais and the podiums and tossed out this theory, philosophy or prediction, but they're just plain wrong. And I'm getting fatigued with "bloggers"and journalists who continue to spout this incorrect theory.

It's a matter of degree really. Certainly, people are finding multiple audio alternatives for their audio listening enjoyment. They're all good and serve a distinct purpose and fulfill a specific need and mood. And the "pie" is being divided up into more pieces.

But all the research I've seen indicates that the public love this. You've heard that "Content is King"? For consumers "Choice is king".

Terrestrial radio will sustain whether it is Talk radio or music radio. Why would anyone listen to terrestrial FM music radio when they can provide themselves all the custom songs they want - whenever they want?

Because radio provides something MP3 players don't: surprises and music discovery. "Pandora's" more of a threat than MP3 players. God help us all if royalty rates slam the door shut on Pandora and others like it. The point is, music on terrestrial, when programmed properly, can easily provide a unique component that will cause people to continue to want to tune in when they are in the mood for it.

So, if you know someone trying to sell this bill of goods that music on FM is going to be extinct within 5 years (let alone 10), have them call me. My personal cell phone number is 323.829.3201. I'll be glad to explain it to them.

Meanwhile, you know what happened when "Chicken Little" cried "the sky is falling", right? Do you even know who Chicken Little is?

He was wrong.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Radio Ownership: The Minority Gap?

A new report was released this week indicating that women and minorities 'are largely absent from radio station ownership, thanks to a surge in media consolidation'.

Gloria Steinem led a conference call discussion about the study which is designed to urge the Federal Communications Commission to refrain from further relaxing restrictions on ownership of broadcast stations by large companies.

I'm not a big fan of consolidation - not after what the 1996 move has done to the industry. Consolidation is just one facet of a perfect storm of events that has led the radio industry to its current doldrums.

Based on an analysis Bridge Ratings conducted late last year as part of the 10th anniversary of the 1996 consolidation ruling in Congress, the act of consolidating properties by large companies has not been responsible for the lack of women and minority ownership. It's just not that easy to get funded! The funding process for any individual is grueling and - especially in the current industry revenue growth environment - delivering acceptable performance targets is a difficult task for any interested owner regardless of race or gender.

I don't think women and minorities have necessarily been systematically cut off from media ownership. The public-interest group study released this week thinks they have.

Women own 6% of all full-power commercial radio stations nationwide and racial or ethnic minorities own 7.7%.

And while Ms. Steinem and others - including the two Democratic members of the FCC - would like to see a closer parity in ownership to women and minority population percentages - it just won't happen anytime soon.

Yes, I agree that there should be changes in ownership rules in order to give more individuals the opportunity to own and operate radio stations. Hold ownership rules where they are currently or reduce the number of stations that can be owned, but the women and minority percentages won't change significantly because of it.

When the financing environment changes significantly or special preferences are offered by the financial funding community to women and minorities who prove they are able to operate, only then will this imbalance improve.

Consolidation has little to do with it.