Radio Is Already on the Verge of Another Change
By William S. “Bill” Cherry
There is a specific advertising medium that franchise real estate companies, say Re/Max, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Sotheby's,the NAR, and even real estate offices that serve large town like Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and the like should be using.
Let me tell you the story, and why.
Radio broadcasting as a business has always had a mind of its own, ever since AM stations began appearing in cities about 1920.
The built-in problems primarily focus around trying to productively fill all of the time that the station is on the air each day, and how to engage listeners in the mentality that at any time during that period, they can turn on their radios and hear what they want.
And if those aren’t bad enough, broadcasting has spent the major part of the last century trying to keep up with the demands of listeners brought on by continually improving technology.
I’m sympathetic to all of these because radio has been my avocation since I went on the air as Brokenhearted Bill for the first time at fourteen. Today, I’m seventy-three.
One of the earliest radio formats consisted of situation comedies, mysteries and game shows, primarily staring well-known vaudeville and movie performers like Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, and Jim and Marian Jordan as “Fibber McGee and Molly.”
But by the early 1950s that began to change as TV began coming into every living room, and those radio programs began drifting to TV where audiences could see what they previously had to imagine.
Radio stations began to scramble as their audiences left them in droves, and advertising revenues diminished as a result.
In the nick of time, Robert Todd Storz, a station owner in Omaha, Nebraska, noticed how often customers kept playing the same songs on restaurant and bar jukeboxes. That was an important behavioral pattern.
By adapting that discovery to radio, listeners learned that at anytime they turned on their radio, hearing their favorite song was only minutes away.
Dallas AM radio station owner, Gordon McLendon, perfected the concept, and became wealthy and a legend as he built his Liberty Network of some fifteen stations throughout the U.S., all playing what had become known as Top 40.
However, in the background FM was inching forward as one by one it overcame its endemic, weird technological problems, like signal drift.
Engineers knew that if FM technology could be perfected, unlike AM, the reception would be static-free, the fidelity would be almost infinitely better, and now that stereo had been invented and was the rage, it could produce that signal.
AM station owners began licensing FM stations as insurance policies that they would be able to remain in business.
A close friend of mine owned a 1000 watt station that had a coverage of about 200,000 people. His company applied for and got the FM license for the city. They began simulcasting the its AM signal on both frequencies.
Years passed before FM began gaining any popularity or profitability. Many station owners interpreted that delay as evidence that FM was nothing more than a red herring.
My friend was one those. He said, “I sold the FM station for $150,000,” Within the next ten years, after it had sold at least three more times, the last sale, according to him, was for $22 million.
Asset values of AM stations dropped.
Music went to the big high fidelity, stereo sound of FM. Fortunately, AM found its way to all-news and talk radio formats.
Now there is a brand new radio broadcasting generation. It is Internet streaming. Each of these stations can be heard all over the world, anywhere there is Internet accessibility.
One of the best of these is the creation of forty-year career programmer and on-air personality, Brad Chambers. He named his 24-hour station “Martini in the Morning,” and it has just celebrated its seventh anniversary.
While it is difficult to measure, it is not unlikely that his station’s audience is well over a million, and Chambers says it continues to grow at a rapid pace.
The insanity is that advertisers wanting to reach wide markets have been slow in discovering the prosperous dynamics of this new way to reach the buying public.
Chambers, whose play list includes Sinatra, Torme, Strisand, Buble, Eva Cassidy, Tyrel and the like, says he has yet to turn a profit.
But like FM did, it will soon, while FM has its turn to scramble to keep its market share.
Copyright 2013 - William S. Cherry
All rights reserved