As I listen to radio it bothers me that something is missing.
Now I know that the role of the jock has changed dramatically.
You can blame me as much as anyone for that because of our work with voice tracking at StarSystem.
People, as in normal listeners, try to describe this lack of ‘something’, too.
No one seems able to put their finger on it.
Most listeners know jocks are voice tracked today. Even some live talents are accused of being tracked.
That’s a whole different set of problems.
Some of the group heads at the NAB last week said radio has a perception problem.
Radio consultants and researchers like to say , ‘perception is reality’.
So I guess the perception that radio has some problems would actually be ‘reality’.
In any case do some listening and you’ll hear some problems.
This week we had meetings in a major southwestern city. It’s a ‘dry heat’ there so in my free time I stayed inside and scanned the dial.
Like the non radio types that say something is missing, I could feel it too. But what?
So I decided to try to figure it out.
Recently I’ve listened to a number of Country stations in several cities.
All were highly rated at one time, but now they’re settling into the middle of the pack in their markets.
First, I’ll tell you that to my ear, the format has serious music problems.
I wonder do PDs have time to review the music log today or are they so busy they cant take time for that attention to detail?
The problems go well beyond how the music is mixed, and deep into what is being selected for the play list.
Enough of that.
We can argue about individual titles and artists all day. The problem is bigger than music.
Let’s remember that music is only part of the reason people use radio.
The Country format functions a little differently than say, AC might even for people in the same age group.
But music isn’t the sole reason these stations are declining in ratings.
The Country format is more than just music for its listeners.
It’s more than jocks who are able to deliver a nice liner and the weather.
Country is about companionship.
I think that is the key reason the format has thrived over the years.
The lack of companionship on air today is why stations are in decline.
Think about how listeners describe their favorite station and how they respond to the people on air.
There is a very personal connection that bonds a listener like the station is family.
That’s why it can be so hard to beat a heritage station.
They don’t have to be good, or slick.
Folksy and plain beat highly produced almost every time.
Most of the jocks I’ve heard recently are tracked. Problem is they leave tell tale signs that give them away.
Good tracking requires effort and preparation, and attention to detail.
Let’s face it for most stations it is a business reality. So there’s no reason to have the, “we need live jocks discussion.
Most listeners can’t tell that a jock is tracked, at least not on a conscience level. They know it from something deeper and perhaps more dangerous.
It is something you just feel.
Often it comes through when the jock attempts content but misses the mark.
A listener in Phoenix won’t care Craig Morgan is playing a show tonight in Illinois. So why talk about it?
But do enough of this type of break and your listeners will feel at arms length from the station.
These little ‘disconnects’ add up, until finally the connection is lost.
Listen to your station with a different set of ears.
Imagine for a moment that you are not in radio. You live alone and listening to the radio is your only contact with the world for six hours.
Is the jock someone you want to spend time with?
What are you getting from the relationship?
Drill down, past all the format rules, music rotations, and call letter mentions to really see if your station is doing the one thing that really makes Country such a powerful format.
Think about how important companionship is right now.
We have two wars, massive financial problems, high gas prices, and people losing their homes. People are looking for a friendly voice, but in a way that connects with them.
Country ratings should be going through the roof right now. But instead shares are dropping.
Be a good companion first. Everything else is a distant second.