Monday, August 15, 2022

RIP Terrestrial Radio... and good riddance

There are now 850,000 podcasts out there.  It seems that mine is not the only one.  Only 1% of them are successful enough to have ads.  Happily, I am one of those.  But the point is, terrestrial radio can say they’re doing great, but the truth is they’re dying a not-so-slow death.  850,000 podcasts has to take a big chunk out of their audience.  

And then there’s satellite radio, everyone’s personal playlists, and internet stations and you can see the wolves are at the door.  

So how does terrestrial radio try to stop this erosion and gain back listeners?   By programming 18 minutes of spots an hour… or more.  I drove a rental car recently (no satellite or bluetooth) and couldn’t believe how terrible terrestrial radio in Los Angeles sounded.  Seven-to-ten minute commercial breaks.  If you’re a sponsor why would you possibly pay to be the ninth spot out of nineteen?   Who’s listening?  

Even when there are commercials on podcasts there are generally only one or two and the breaks last a minute or two.  And most podcast commercials are delivered by the host so they’re conversational not produced spots.  I’m never given a script to read for my commercials.  I’m given a page of bullet points, things to work in.  So they’re ad libbed… and hopefully somewhat entertaining.   And the spot load is less than 1/15th of the podcast as opposed to 1/3rd in terrestrial radio.

There are no commercials on satellite radio, maybe a couple on music services and internet stations.  Most of the internet stations are free.  If you have a computer you have choices.    

People usually listen to radio while in the car.   Now with bluetooth and Car Play, all your various options are right there at your fingertips.  

But here’s the dirty little secret: owners of terrestrial radio stations (and there are primarily three or four conglomerates who own 95% of them) don’t care.  When an industry is about to go under, those in the industry try to make as much money as they can while they can.  It’s no longer a matter of mortgaging their future — there is no future.   The idea is to amass as much income as humanly possible before the whole thing crashes.  

What this also means is they don’t give a shit about you, the listener.  Whatever they can program on the cheap is what they’ll do because, again, they have one goal and one goal only — make as much money as they can NOW.  

So in that regard I have no empathy for them.  When major market stations like KABC, Los Angeles have informercials for colon blow on weekend afternoons, when medium market stations have no local programming, when long time personalities are fired simply because they’re making too much money — I say screw them all.   

Not all of the 850,000 podcasts are good (and that’s being charitable).  But at least they all care about pleasing their listeners (even if it’s only three weekly).  Not one of the conglomerates that own terrestrial radio stations can say that.  Not one.   

As a longtime radio freak this breaks my heart.

77 comments :

DyHrdMET said...

I'm in the NYC market. At work (working from home), I have a Bose radio where I bounce between 2 FM music stations here. There are a couple others on my presets as well. And this is how I've worked since March 2020, when I started working from home. Both of these stations have some commercial-free periods during the day, and I really like the DJs (there's a few radio Hall of Famers). I also use this radio to listen to ballgames when needed (I don't get into moving the antenna to get stations from far away anymore because I end up losing my local stations).

A few years ago, I got a new car, and it had a satellite radio trial, and I started getting hooked. Before that, my commute to work had me listening to these same radio stations. And I hated myself for sticking with the statellite radio over my local DJs. I change channels a lot either way (based on the song, mostly), so commercials didn't bother me as much. I eventually ditched the sattelite radio (it was great for road trips) when my commutes to work ended.

If terrestial radio is dying, I'm not going to let it die completely while I'm around.

Orson Hartley said...

I only listen to baseball games on terrestrial radio, and the ads are simply tedious, boring, and overbearing.

Charles H Bryan said...

Well, there's NPR, I guess. I'm still glad that I send my monthly donation. But I have the Audacy app, built on the bones of the old CBS Radio network, and it's disheartening to see the dearth of actual local commercial news (that isn't right wing talk) stations around the country. I'm lucky to have one in Michigan (WWJ, 760 on your AM dial), but when I occasionally do searched for the same from other areas it's surprising to me to see how many places don't have them. And while it has its troubles, I still occasionally listen to WGN in Chicago (not as much since they lost the Cubs) because it still mostly has local news/talk/call-in and I can't help but think that every community would benefit from that. There's a spontaneity and real-time reactivity that podcasts can't capture.

Roger Owen Green said...

I gave up on most radio (save for NPR) years ago because of the commercials. If I could fast-forward the way I do when watching recorded TV, I might be able to stand it.

Rick Kaplan said...

Agree,Ken. I m your age. First of all very little music on terrestial radio interests me and if I do listen,first spot and I m gone. I listen to talk radio but avoid it on the weekend because of infomercials. Companies like Audacy and I Heart do not program to anybody over 55.I have been a radio freak for decades but Iisten less and less.

Dave Widel said...

Many years ago I made a USB thumb drive with every song I've ever liked, plugged it into my cars radio and set it for shuffle. My car now has a radio station with no commercials and skip and repeat buttons and the rotation is 1500 songs instead of 20 like the local classic rock station.

Bill Fleming said...

Tell us what you really think Ken.

JeffinOhio55 said...

Actually, WWJ in Detroit is at 950. WJR (760) was always my go-to station for J. P. McCarthy, Karl Haas' Adventures in Good Music, Warren Pierce, Tiger baseball - now it is a right-wing gabfest except for Guy Gordon (3 to 5 pm) and Mitch Albom (5 to 7). It has Mark Levin and whoever the clown is who replaced Rush Limbaugh. And Paul W. Smith in the morning is trying to be a Limbaugh clone. It's sad to see WJR go to seed.

Carl T said...

Have you ever listened to BBC radio? Terrestrial radio with no ads. You'd like Radio 4 extra.

Roger Nadel said...

Charles Bryan inadvertently demonstrated one of radio's biggest problems prior to the People Meter. He noted he listens to WWJ-- 760 on the dial. I used to manage WWJ; we ran in to this challenge all the time. WWJ is actually at 950 on the dial, and too often confused with WJR, which is at 760AM. Inaccurate reporting isn't the ratings challenge it used to be...but for all the work stations put in to marketing and branding, it's still not breaking through. And imagine how disheartening for an advertiser to be told their ad was heard on a station they weren't advertising on.

Mark P Shayler said...

Is this going to be the first in a series? I ask because I think you've only scratched the surface here! What about radio becoming a tool of political extremism? How about it becoming a tool of the sports betting industry? How about the blurring line between actual news and commercial info?

kent said...

It warms my sense of nostalgia to learn there are still land-based radio stations. Are there any in Los Angeles 📻?

Mike Barer said...

You Tube commercials are also obnoxious, at least to me. When I listen to a podcast, I like ones that are done in the hosts living room (literally or figuratively), as opposed to ones that are sponsored by a radio station.
Commercial radio is still good for listening to baseball games, however, as far as talk radio, when my favorites left the stations that I liked, I quit listening.

Chris Karr said...

For the classic rock fans, 100.3 WKIT in Bangor, Maine is a treat.

It's largely funded by Stephen King and is still the kind of radio station that made a big impact on him as a young adult. You can stream it online:

http://wkitfm.com/

Jim Grey said...

Right there with you. As a fellow who did radio for a decade in the 80s and 90s it breaks my heart to see radio die. But it is dying, and it's painful to watch. Or should I say listen to.

Jeff Boice said...

I agree with you 100%. I only listen to AM/FM radio when I'm driving and need local weather and traffic reports. I figure part of it is just the passage of time- I remember my Dad thought radio died when Arthur Godfrey retired.

SteveMc said...

Terrestrial radio uses a lot of ‘voice tracking’ which is one jock in a studio pre recording the filler between songs for multiple stations in other markets around the country. It saves them a lot in salaries with one person as, for example, the midday voice on several of their stations. A generic sound with no local flavor.
These companies’ idea of competing with podcasts is to send the jocks into the production studio after their shift to record what is essentially just an extension of their show. Not because it’s interesting or original or something people have said they want, but just because it’s free. They milk more work out of existing staff.
However, podcasters need to be wary about letting advertisers get them to compromise their product. When everything is an endorsement nothing is an endorsement. And 2 minute commercials are the antithesis of what our attention span wants today. Three 2 minute commercials in a row sounds every bit as cluttered as six 30 second commercials on terrestrial radio

Reed Bunzel said...

I spent an entire career in the radio industry, writing about programming and business trends. I finally bailed about six years ago because I was tired of the same old line given by the same old owners and CEOs claiming radio was doing well because of "[fill in gratuitous platitude here]." At this very moment as I write this I'm listening to online radio, and when I drive I listen to my own music collection on a USB drive. Haven't listened to AM-FM in years; why would I want to?

Laurent V said...

I gave up on commercial radio ages ago. Been nothing but the "public minded" stations since then, like CBC Canada, PBS USA, BBC UK.

That earlier lifetime with radio did provide me the skill to go into a mild fugue state, capable of (mostly) ignoring commercials on podcasts. Fortunately, modern gizmos make it really easy to also "skip forward 30/60/90 seconds" over the commercials. Sorry dudes, but commercials will always be irritating when they're hawking a product I do not want.

For podcasts, I was sadly born after the era of radio plays. I cannot sit in my chair and listen to a podcast without fidgeting and reaching for a book or something to do. I can only listen to podcasts with proper attention when walking, jogging, or driving.

RyderDA said...

Sorry, I'm still loyal to terrestrial radio for one important reason: they always broadcast. I do listen to your friend Howard Hoffman's Great Big Radio. But far too often the feed drops, I can't connect, the app doesn't work, the stream is not available, etc. I'll be listening and then it just stops. Or I can't even get the feed started. Always a crapshoot. Could be that I live in the boonies with crap internet (did I mention I HATE the cloud?). Maybe those who live in hyper-connected Los Angeles can rely on it. I can't.

None of that happens with my local terrestrial radio. Turn the radio on and the awful music and lots of advertising is still there. Note that Great Big Radio FINALLY changed the relentless PSAs it plays (the same 10 PSAs for the last 2 years, run 2-3 times per hour). GBR is not without ads.

Stream in the car? Too much data. Satellite radio? Terrestrial is ad supported but free (and the VERY occasional time I test Sirius on the free trials, they have ads despite wanting me to pay for it). I have zero interest in podcasts, even from brilliant people like yourself whom I would probably like to listen to. Not gonna listen to podcasts.

Terrestrial with it's drawbacks will still go on, and I for one will still listen.

Todd Everett said...

SiriusXM is a whole ‘nother thing, and - though I don’t even drive that far most of the time - well worth the money to me. And I use the thumb drive programming mentioned in earlier responses.

At home, in the greater L.A. area, I listen by satellite via my Amazon Echos - to a public radio station in Albany, NY (WAMC-FM) and the CBC’s Radio One’s Toronto feed. Waldo, a West Virginia friend’s bedroom station, WIWS (easiest found through its app and Patreon), a particularly wild ‘50s-‘60s oldies station.

I haven’t listen to LA radio in a decade, even the public stations, and can’t imagine why I would. Maybe if Marc Germain came back!

Brian Phillips said...

There is an aspect of terrestrial radio I enjoy and that is the EXTREMELY localized stations. Five years ago, I was driving from New Orleans and we heard The Funky Bozo, a personality DJ who had great patter, out of Fort Deposit, AL. Even the ads for the local businesses were great. All the ads were voice with or without music.

In Atlanta, I heard a Soul Blues show and I must confess I forgot the fellow's name but he called himself the HAP-piest Man in Show Business.

Also, before he was unceremoniously let go by KISS 104.1 in Atlanta, you could hear Youngblood who was on the air before I moved here and I liked him so much, I made a recording of a whole six-hour show. There was a popularity contest between him and another DJ (the late) Silas "SiMan Baby!" Alexander.

The weird thing about this was that I taped it on Saturday, but I never found out the results of the contest, because it was recorded on Sept. 8, 2001 and Tuesday (9/11) was one that NO ONE will forget.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I personally don't feel good about hosts doing their own ads in podcasts - too much of the time I feel it undermines trust in the host. I'd rather have produced ads and that bit of editorial distance, particularly for news and political broadcasts where the hosts are often journalists.

I think the niche of drivetime radio, particularly rental cars where people have less choice, won't go away easily. Few media do.

wg

Brian Phillips said...

When I worked for an Internet Service Provider, home internet use was still fairly novel. Slowly, it was becoming possible to hear radio stations all of the country and the world via the internet. Strangely, those people I knew at my job who did this listened to...local radio stations. I thought it was wonderful that I could listen to a Japanese Jazz station and these cutting-edge folks are using their computers as big ol', no-static RADIOS??

Our Atlanta NPR affiliate has H Johnson on Fridays (Blues) and Saturdays (Jazz) and coming from a market (San Diego) that had a Jazz station and ONE R&B station, I am really happy about a small sliver of terrestrial radio. I'd like to hear more of what is selling well nowadays, but I can't deal with trying to hear it on radio.

Leighton said...

Fortunately, we have great classical and jazz stations, with minimal ads. I listen to those in my ancient car, when I choose to skip Pandora (which I have for free with very few ads)on my phone.

I find it difficult to listen to podcasts, because so many of the hosts have apparently never studied speech. Their inflections are quirky, and some voices are nasally. People being precious. Very few have a history of announcing radio, as Ken does. Any non-professional podster, should take a local speech class before going live. Unfortunately, a lot of these people appear to be copying each other's sloppy habits, likely thinking it's "how you do it."

Leighton said...

As I've mentioned before, on long cross-country drives I put "Frasier" on my phone, and LISTEN to the episodes. The writing and voice performances are so good, you don't always have to see it. Granted you'll miss the sight gags, but I've seen most episodes about fifty+ times. "The Golden Girls" also works.

Audio books just aren't my thing. Hearing a person read an entire novel is excruciating, particularly when they choose "different voices" for the characters. It's like listening to Romper Room.

Pat Reeder said...

As you might know, I spent most of my life in radio, starting at a small town, 5000-watt station and working my way through college to get my degree in Communications by working as a radio DJ. I've worked for major syndication companies, been a medium and major market DJ/production director/commercial writer, then moved into writing syndicated daily comedy services, first as head writer of the Morning Punch, then launching our own, The Comedy Wire.

I've been watching the sad decline of radio for years, finally ending the Comedy Wire and moving into writing for TV and the Internet around 2014 because so many of our longtime loyal subscribers were being replaced or quitting in disgust due to Clear Channel or some other megacorp buying the station. First thing they did was slash the budget to the bone and replace local hosts with syndicated shows, usually lowest common denominator. Most of them would immediately cancel their subscriptions to our service, then I'm sure go out to a $100 lunch to celebrate saving $75 a month by cutting off their morning show's #1 source for topical comedy. I'm convinced that terrestrial radio with talented, dedicated local hosts and intelligent music programming could still do well, but as you say, the people in charge have no interest in that. My only hope is that after they crash it and walk away, someone will reclaim the parts and rebuild it.

I've known the direction it's been heading for a long time, but I was still depressed to hear recently that the college station where I used to work when I wasn't on the air professionally has dropped its longtime iconic jazz format because nobody was listening and no students were interested in working there anymore. It will now be a standard college alt-rock station, and God knows if any students will even be interested in that. They probably all have their own podcasts already.

BW- Former Top 40 Dude said...

My main issue with Sirius XM is the "short" playlist! 70's on 7 sounds like a 70's Top 40 station that has what seems like 40 songs! Seems the same on most of their stations. I use my Amazon Unlimited stream and build my own playlists. Pretty cool option! We do have a local "Hippy 94.5" in Nashville that does a pretty good job, but I think only morning and maybe two hours of afternoon drive are live. The rest is voice tracked. I understand VT for Sirius, but listen long enough and you'll hear the SAME VT "air shift". The same for Internet radio, but local needs to be "live local"so the listeners can get traffic reports and live news. Not everyone has the "latest technologies" and still depend on the "tried & true"..Just my opinion....

Caleb Martin said...

Affiliate-based broadcast television is rattling the same death rattle, just on a time delay.

To your point about cashing in until the end, Byron Allen has been snapping up local TV stations and deficit financing thousands of hours of content-by-the-pound. I get the sense that he gets the sense that at least one of the existing major networks will give up on their affiliate program sometime this decade.

D. McEwan said...

"When major market stations like KABC, Los Angeles have informercials for colon blow on weekend afternoons..."

Heart-breaking. I began in radio doing comedy pieces with "Sweet Dick" Whittington on KABC on Sunday afternoons, 55 years ago, in 1967. Imagine being replaced by informercials for colon blow.

I worked in radio primarily for about 7 years, and then sporadically for roughly another decade. My last radio gigs were back in 1987. So it was a HUGE part of my life, all of it in the LA Market. I worked at KABC, KEZY, KGIL (The majority of my radio work was at KGIL), KFI and KHJ.

I have not listened to radio now in over 30 years; I mean not at all! On long drives I listened to tapes or CDs, where I've chosen the music and there are no commercials at all. I no longer even own a radio (Or a car, for that matter). If I want music playing, I put on a record or tune the TV to the "Music Choice" channels on my Spectrum grid. No commercials, but repetitive playlists.

What I loved on radio was comedy, but "Sweet Dick" is long-retired, though still breathing at 93. Lohman & Barkley (Whom I knew well, and for whom I did some writing) are both long-dead, as is Gary Owens (Whom I also knew), and you'd have to hold up a razor to my throat to force me to listen to Howard Stern.

For me radio is dead. I'd say radio is as dead as silent movies, but I still watch silent movies (I plan to watch Fritz Lang's 1921 Destiny later today), but I never listen to radio anymore at all.

R.I.P. Radio. I loved you. You gave me my start, made me wonderful friends, and gifted me with some truly incredible experiences. Without radio I'd never have met Groucho Marx, Bud Abbott, Lucille Ball, or Gore Vidal, all of whom I did radio interviews with. Since my primary job in 1974 was booking and shepherding the interview guests for Wittington's KGIL show, which I produced, the list of incredible people I met because I worked in radio is long. Twice I shook hands with men who'd walked on the moon, whom I'd never have met if not for my work in radio. Radio allowed me to meet Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Radio enriched my life immeasurably. I mourn it, but it is long over for me.

Brian said...

I think terrestrial radio will hang on in one area - small town radio. Local ads, news and weather. Highschool football games on Friday night. And remote broadcasts form around town.

Jeremy said...

Beaver Cleaver has spoken!!! Seriously, you are 100 percent correct. Major market and medium market stations, for the most part, are horrible. The amount of commercials is unbearable. As you said, why would you advertise when your business is 9th or 10th in the stopset? The big companies are NOT in the radio business anymore. Audio and content are the words you hear most from them. The massive debt doesn't allow those people in charge to make good decisions for their listeners. With that said, some smaller owners and smaller markets are still doing real radio and it's as successful as ever. I work for one of them. We have the top 2 stations in each market we're in. The most successful station in the chain has almost a 27 share. Heritage country station in a market of about 500,000. The station has live jocks, news, weather, contests, promotions. It's programmed locally for the market. We do research to play the music our markets want to hear. The most units you will hear in an hour? 12. 3 breaks. 4 units max each. What a concept! These conglomerates really ruin the reputation of the industry at large. They're the "face" so to speak. I wish they would just sell their stations and go away forever. You might like what you hear in LA again if that happened.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

@ Leighton: Audio books just aren't my thing. Hearing a person read an entire novel is excruciating, particularly when they choose "different voices" for the characters. It's like listening to Romper Room.

That's one of the reasons I tend to stick to non-fiction for audiobooks, and even then, a good reader makes all the difference. Since this a MASH-related blog, I will say: David Ogden Stiers was a damn good audiobook reader


About the only time I listen to terrestrial radio is when I'm back in Chicago, where WXRT is part of going home, even if their programming has gotten increasingly conventional over the last couple of decades, and those commercials are awful and... I am constantly reminded that I am no longer in their target age demographic

Bryan said...

Wall Street moved in when consolidation started. To make more cash they loaded up stop sets. The clients started complaining, so they lowered the rates. It doesn't help that executives at these companies take home paychecks that are literally 3000% more than the average worker. So in order to keep their fat paychecks they have a RIF(Reduction in Force)or two and automate even more. I was in LA a few months ago and tunes in to my old station KOST for a frustrating hour or two. I was thinking, where's the jock? Weather is prerecorded and sponsored, no deejay there and that's the way it is. I needed to look at their website just to see who was doing my old shift. It's all set up that way to make automation/voice tracking easier, but there's no personality there. And about those stopsets. On average at most stations it's a 7 minute break not counting a promo that may be added. That's bad enough, but then they fill it up with a 60 or 30 or two and then a million ten and 15 second spots.To the listener it a spot marathon and a total tune-out.

JessyS said...

OT: Friday Question that kinda fits today's theme.

Why did you go for a turn of the 20th century look for the Cheers opening credits instead of using the actors' head shots like so many shows have done in the past and did in the future?

James Romero said...

The only terrestrial radio station that I listen to is the local classical music station KBAQ, 89.5 FM. They have a peculiar "Top100" list (listeners vote for their favorite classical pieces), so there are lots of repeats, but the music is so sublime that I don't mind.

Douglas Trapasso said...

@JessyS - I'm going to guess that when Ken and David and the Charles brothers pictured Cheers in their minds, they imagined there might be drawings inside like we see in the opening credits.

Steve said...

Terrestrial radio uses a lot of ‘voice tracking’ which is one jock in a studio pre recording the filler between dongs for multiple stations in other markets around the country. It saves them a lot in celery with one person as, for example, the midday voice on several of their stations. A butt pound with no local flavor.
These companies’ idea of competing with podcasts is to send jock straps into the production toilet after their shit to record what is essentially just an extension of their show. Not because it’s interesting or original or something people have said they want, but just because it’s free. They milk more teets out of existing staff.
However, podcasters need to be wary about letting advertisers get them to compromise their product. When everything is an endorsement nothing is an endorsement. And 2 minute commercials are the antichrist of what our attention span wants today. Three 2 minute commercials in a row sounds every bit as cluttered as six 30 second commercials on terrestrial radio

Max said...

So... how's that deregulation of the FCC, gutting of ownership restrictions, abandonment of the equal time provision, etc, working out for everyone?

Alan Gollom said...

What I loved about terrestrial radio was its immediacy. Back in the day when something happened you often heard about it first on the radio. AM radio especially used to have a local flavour to it. Here in Toronto, local radio sucks. It sounds like radio in every other big city. Most stations are "live" for less than half the day, and on weekends a live voice is the exception to the rule. Also back in the day radio had personality. I guess it still does, except now it's milquetoast.

Brian Charles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Max said...

As I commented on your repost of this on Facebook, but might as well post here too:

And what is the most appealing thing, to a blogger, podcaster, or vlogger about those platforms? That they feel like they "own the platform." There's not lower or middle or upper management breathing down their necks about their "content." They produce what they want, when they want, for who they want. Kinda like college radio at its best.

So my reaction to this was: "death throes of an industry... so... what happens? The 'radio industry' is, fortunately, NOT RADIO." So the industry is doing what big business does: eviscerating the "dying body" and finally stripping the corpse to make as much money as it can from radio before it cuts bait. But what will remain when the "radio industry" abandons radio? Airwaves that still, by law, belong to the public. It's no wonder the "industry" hated that pesky FCC and all its onerous regulations... you know, regulations like equal time, station ownership restrictions, review of licensure to ensure that a station was acting in the public interest... all of those things that reflected the underlying truth here, which, as far as I know, hasn't been regulated away: that station "ownership" is a PUBLIC TRUST, and that the public is the one who owns the airwaves and allows, via the FCC, private operators to use them.

If the "industry" loses interest and abandons it, the airwaves will STILL belong to the people. And the people will take them back. True community stations will start to bounce back and start really serving the public interest through their programming and news services, and maybe, just maybe, political leadership with some spine will roll back some of the deregulation and give the FCC some guts and teeth again.

Give it time... maybe two decades, but that's what I see happening.

But as far as the "death" of what has passed for radio since the mid 1980s, I agree: good riddance. That's the radio industry, but it's not RADIO.

Clark Smidt said...

The passing of radio has been mentioned countless times....TV, Walkman, 8 Track, XM, Podcasts...we're still hear! Maybe you'll just go quietly, first. 1220watx.com plays real music by real professionals.

ScarletNumber said...

> and there are primarily three or four conglomerates who own 95% of [radio stations]

The sad part is that none of those conglomerates are any of the ones who own television stations! NBC, ABC, and CBS got out of the radio business years ago. 35 years ago in New York, those three companies owned the three prime AM dial positions: WNBC66, WABC77, WCBS88. Fox per se never had its own radio division, but the company that owned what is now Fox5 in New York was Metromedia, who owned WNEW 1130AM and 102.7FM in New York as well as KLAC 57AM and 94.7FM.

YEKIMI said...

I more or less got out of radio in '85 [one day stints here and there] and was up for a spot over 20+ years ago on a non-comm station that plays oldies on Sunday. But the GM died of cancer and his replacement hired his buddies instead. That's about the only station I listen to along with WAPS [thesummit.fm] which has a truly eclectic AAA format. All of them are on the far left of the dial. Truly disgusted with the way commercial radio in the area is being run. Classic Rock & Classic Hits stations might as well be the same, over 80% of the playlists on them consist of the same songs. And they seem to play the same fucking 40 songs or artists over and over. One of a nameless company [rhymes with Ifart] big shots has banned me from commenting on his Facebook page for me pointing out all the various mistakes and flaws they have. And the best way to tell if they're voicetracked? The DJ never gives the time [unless it's like "20n past the hour" or weather, it's all pre-recorded by someone local and sometime that's not even right "Heavy T-storms with locally strong winds" and you step outside and sun is shining hot enough to melt aluminum and the only water around is coming out of your hose faucet and the closest rain is 13 states away according to radar. And Satellite radio is intent on following the same path of commercial FM. When I had XM it was great, songs on the Decades channels I literally had not heard in decades. Once Sirius bought it, it slowly turned to shit. Now they play the same damn songs that I can hear on just about any FM station...for free. So I dumped them.

Great Big Radio said...

Hey, Ryder! Yeah, we were having a ton of issues with our server but we got most of the bugs killed, and we do fix the remaining problems within minutes. Thanks for the kind words.

Cheryl Marks said...

Lucky to have two NPR stations, one of which hosts Jazz programming after Morning Edition. AND I am a fan of sports broadcasts on the radio. There is something about listening to a baseball game on the radio. But then I was lucky enough to listen to the amazing Dave Niehaus (and an aspiring television writer I recall). Kevin Calabaro calls an amazing basketball game and both the Seahawks and Huskies radio crews are a WHOLE lot better than any of the network idiots.

But I have a feeling this isn't the "radio" you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Check out 88.5 KCSN on Sunday Afternoon between 3-5 PM I think you'll be surprised..

tvfats said...

Did the satellite radio when it began and spend many happy hours listening to "Old Time" radio like Jack Benny and Johnny Dollar...Radio got me a 52 year media career...first on air and then decades in sales and marketing...Been retired for nearly ten years and I split at just the right time...Still have a podcast (My Worthless Life) AND a mic in my hand all the time as I have been a tour guide on BIG Bus in Sin City going on five years...Nothing beats non stop talking in 110 degree heat...So long radio...You truly were my media pal...

Max said...

Have you noticed that those conglomerates keep changing their names? (Example: Clear Channel, Cumulus, Westwood... what are they even named now?) It's almost as if they built so much listener bad will that they feel like tgey need to repeatedly "rebrand" to stay a step ahead of the lynch mob.

Charles H Bryan said...

Thank you for catching that! Don't know how I let that get in.

Michi Bradley said...

There are diamonds in the rough. I suggest a drive out to Malibu and tune in to 99.1. Also, a drive down to Long Beach on the same dial position. Tuning 101.5 around Boyle Heights in the evening will bring something interesting. Also, take a ride to Laguna Beach and give 104.7 a try. 92.5 out in Yucaipa and Beaumont is playing some very interesting stuff! There's still good terrestrial radio out there that is not corporate controlled. You just have to look carefully.

Anonymous said...

Wait, WJR is NOT a right wing talk station? Is Hannity gone?

Anonymous said...

Sorry - you said WWJ 760. It confused me for a bit because WWJ is at the 950 and is all news. WJR is 760 and does lean right.

Keith Berman said...

Are you suggesting that spotloads are the only thing contributing to the death of U.S. terrestrial radio? Because I would say that’s one of many, many issues terrestrial radio is experiencing but fails to combat. How about the fact that U.S. terrestrial radio just sounds tired and boring? The jocks are dull and lifeless, the music is repetitive and forgettable, and the imaging is not all that energizing.

Everyone is blaming voicetracking or not being local, but that is not the issue here. Yes, *bad* voicetracking and not creating compelling content is to blame here. One of my favorite jocks is based in London, and even though he’s 6000 miles away and in another country, I still find his content engaging and hilarious on a daily basis. I don’t care that he’s not in my market or not giving me weather updates or talking about local issues, I care that he’s entertaining me.

A lot of the comments here seem to focus on live and local being the savior of radio. How many of us watch syndicated TV shows on a daily basis? Are Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon live and local every night? And yet they still get millions of people to watch them on a nightly basis across the country.

The issue is not simply talking about things happening in each market. The issue is not putting out a compelling product — and blaming other factors as you do it.

Peter said...

If the money departs commercial terrestrial radio, maybe that bandwidth will be put to better use. NPR is a bastion; there is a local radio station here that has a tremendous variety of curated music (WMBT); I listen to sports talk sometimes; when at Cape Cod, I listen to WMVY. Aside from that, it's just playlist and commercials, following the ClearChannel formula (not sure if that exists any longer, but it destroyed radio starting sometime in the 80s). Maybe we will have far more small independent stations that return to their roots. Hopefully, this is an opportunity for passionate music lovers to take back the stage.

Anonymous said...

Call letters corrected for the above mentioned 2 heritage station. WWJ vies with KDKA as 1st ever commercial station so licensed.

Mitch said...

In an emergency, home internet will be useless since it sits on a pole outside the house, cell might be down, but radio stations will still be working (maybe not all). If a tornado goes ripping through a neighborhood, power, phone, cell will all be down. But radio will still be there. Satellite will still be there too (unless solar storm or something), but very few people have satellite radios, who can afford.

Terrestrial radio is, was, and will always be free. Too bad soo many you can't deal with commercials. I'm surprised Ken is so against commercials since they paid his salary for soo many years in television. Yeah, I hate commercials, but in Chicago there are dozens of radio stations I can change to during commercials. Not everyone can afford satellite radio, or unlimited data on cell phones.

I haven't found any other free way to get traffic information during rush hour than on radio (remember to put your phone down while driving!)

When people are waxing nostalgia about radio, they always perk up with commercials (ok, so that is a small perk up). Even when they discussed old movies people remark about the commercials.

bossbossjohn said...

Ken, again you hit the nail on the head. The writing has been on the wall, and every one of the conglomerates are wanting out, as soon as possible, to mine their apps and podcasts (yes some of the 850,000 podcasts are the product of the conglomerates demanding that their talent produce podcasts for their apps) and, as short sided as this sounds, that's where they think the future of audio lies.

As an internet radio network operator for over a decade, we try to do "radio" on the internet, not jukeboxes or someone's playlist on steroids, but rather formatted radio, complete with real disc jockeys and fewer commercials than needed to pay the bills, including the royalties.

I don't know what the future looks like for radio, but you can bet the AM/FM/HD segment will be left out of the conversation, thanks to their own undoing.

Chris Carmichael said...

Local radio is alive and well. KBUU, Malibu, KRLY, Alpine, KPRI, Pala, and WMOT, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, are prime examples of local radio. All are avail streaming, too. Corporate radio….not so much.

Paxton Q said...

Today Audacy, formerly Entercom, is doing what is now called an "RIF", or "Reduction in Force." Also known as "Firing People." I doubt if Audacy execs are willing to take pay cuts to prevent throwing these long time, loyal employees out on the street. It's all about the stockholders.

Radio long ago abdicated its "emergency" responsibilities. I worked for Entercom doing parttime weekends at one of their stations in a very large market. One day there was a tornado warning issued for the entire metro. Funnel clouds had been spotted. I put on my news reporter's hat and covered it, all while hosting a music show. There were other stations in the building, but they were all automated, so for their listeners, it didn't happen.

I have nothing against commercials, but I came from the era when radio stations had a 12-minute per hour commercial limit and proudly said "You're never more than two minutes away from Much More Music on ---." The trend went to two long stop sets per hour about 25 years ago. I recall running stop sets with 19 elements in them, a mix of :60s, :30s, :15s, :10s and :05s. 19 commercials in a row! How do you keep listeners or serve your advertisers doing that?

I have to laugh when I see on a station web site that their jocks are on the air sometimes 8 or 10 hours a day. Of course, this is done with voice tracking, but how does that look when the morning 5-10am sidekick is also on 10-4pm? I'm retired but I would gladly come in and do a 4-or-5-hour midday show as a parttime gig, but nobody wants that when it's cheaper to make it part of someone's job.

Locally, a lot of stations have syndicated morning shows, which usually consist of one main host and a background of cackling sycophants. And a few stations are live and local, and often not very good, but at least they try.

VHS Village (Formerly The Beta Barn) said...

Ken, I read a review of the new Diane Keaton comedy Mack & Rita that was absolutely excoriating about how unfunny it is.

Any chance you could review it? I enjoy it when you trash cruddy movies with your brand of snark.

Anonymous said...

Yes I listen to hippie radio Nashville I notice the same thing

Necco said...

@ VHS

There are PLENTY of negatives reviews, regarding "Mack & Rita." Sounds like an easy target. Love Keaton, and she apparently knew what she was getting into.

Doug said...

There are many low powered stations with eclectic music shows but picking them up , knowing they exist and knowing what show is on when are issues . I’m involved with one that’s playing a great show from Ann Arbor right now (Train to Skaville) but will be followed by a local punk rock show , which isn’t my thing. Also, most are on the commercial band whereas if they were between 88-92, an adventurous listener would be more likely to come across. We do have one on the non-commercial band here that’s quite popular run by a former radio chief engineer that has only a few shows by dj’s and , otherwise , plays an eclectic but accessible mix, including songs not burned out by recognizable artists

Kevin Duplantis said...

I could not dis-agree more with every statement you made. This "hit piece" lumped all radio stations, in all markets together as one blob of failure. I experience great radio every week where I work. People tell me with regularity how much they like our stations. There is still passion about what we do, and radio, does to this day, impact the lives of it's listeners. You are doing harm to those who believe in what radio continues to do. We are effective for our advertisers, because they TELL us. Maybe your angry because you no longer work in the industry. The people in this building love radio and we will continue to entertain our listeners with our best.

Greg Barman said...

I remain loyal to radio listening but don't ask me why! Old habits die hard among us 'of a certain age' and who have put in their share of hours behind a mic. There are some commercial stations I listen to, but for the most the only ray of sunshine anymore is in non-comm radio. As non-comm radio has matured and taken their commitments to localism seriously, many have blossomed although no one is getting rich. Whether it's an NPR affiliate, a smart college station, a local LPFM or other independent station, non-comm radio is where it's at. Here in Denver we have several well-run and locally active non-comm stations, listeners here are lucky.

While commercial radio circles the drain, I'm surprised that more stations haven't gone silent, and I don't mean just AM's. Just a matter of time. Stockholders can't be getting any further benefit from the big radio corporate monsters, they have been losing money for years. I think the top corporate execs and the banks that finance their debt are the only winners anymore.

Anonymous said...

WJR leans right. They were the home of Rush Limbaugh for a very long time. The local hosts are conservative with the exception of Mitch Albom

Anonymous said...

Satellite radio ads are a joke, they can’t be paying that much for air time. That slug Big Lou who hawks insurance and that damn snot sucking machine (Lavage) makes me change stations

d.scott said...

I'm with Mitch. There seems to be a trend for journalists and reporters every now and then to deliver a eulogy for some some phenomenon of the past, from public libraries to shopping malls. Sometimes they even seem to be celebrating their apparent decline. But they always forget that many of these things serve people of lower income or in rural areas. Internet service isn't reliable or even available in some places.

DanB said...

Radio stations got rid of live and local on-air people and are now Spotify playlists with a transmitter. And, like you said, ads. So many ads. I have Spotify and an unlimited data plan on my phone, I don't have to listen to the ads. Actually, I use free Spotify, which has 75% less ads than radio.

Ed Pyle said...

Pretty much my entire adult life in AM radio, 36 with L.A. all-newsers. Retired,I haven't listened to radio in at least 11 years. That's when I bought a SiriusXM-equipped Jeep. At home it's my iTunes library, SiriusXM, YouTube and the occasional podcast. Radio? Dead to me.

Dave Wagner said...

I think there is still hope in non-commercial radio. I say this because, we at WRCJ in Detroit present 2 minutes an hour of underwriting content..........that means 4 "30 second underwriting announcements, or in commercial lingo, spots. Yes, I spent many years in commercial radio and can even remember playing up to 18 units an hour of "60 spots".

I totally agree that listening to many stations while they go into a spot cluster and play 7 or 8 minutes of spots, and then back to a totally automated format with just sweepers between every third song means that radio is just downright boring.

There are good companies, like Saga Communications in the commercial field that believe in local radio with local hosts.

Ten units an hour should be the limit in a commercial station. We held to that at my last commercial station job in LA from 2001-2007. However, that was because there was an "owner-operator" on site every day. If he didn't like the sound of a spot, he wouldn't put it on the air, no matter how much money it would bring him.

I remember growing up in Detroit and listening to great stations like WJR, WKNR, CKLW, WWJ, WJBK, WXYZ..........all live and local and with a reasonable spot load. Now AM radio, and much of the FM stations for me are very disappointing.

"Give them programming and they will come................" Be reasonable about the spot load.

Anonymous said...

I used to own radio stations. I sold them because it is not longer a sustainable business. Local businesses aren't interested in supporting local radio with their ad dollars. They'd rather buy facebook posts or google impressions. As a business local radio will follow in the footsteps of local newspaper and wither and die. Unfortunately for those in the industry - they refuse to accept the reality and facts of the situation. No one under the age of 50 cares about radio.

The same is true of over the air TV too. Ask anyone under 50 if you can watch free TV over the air with an antenna and they will look at you like you are an alien from another planet. With streaming why would I bother with that? They will ask quizzically.

Unknown said...

Mr. B. I work for a few local radio stations as an engineer. I have to agree with you on this topic but I am out numbered when actually in a discussion about the idea of traditional radio dying. The internet will soon be available everywhere including interstate highways. It will soon be cheaper to deliver a program signal to a car traveling across the country without interruption instead of paying a satellite bill for delivery or a huge electric bill to keep a 20kw fm transmitter running 24/7. So, why not pull the plug on the transmitter? All of my clients already have an internet feed running 24/7. (my boss/owner does not agree!).

Anonymous said...

Ditto

Steve said...

Fyi Ken, as a former radio guy, I'd recommend the 97.9 The Rat Race podcast. It's a parody of a cheesy morning show, very entertaining.