April 30, 2024

What Is the Purpose of Your Radio Station?

I admit it, I am reading one of those self-help books about finding meaning in life. I just started the chapter on “finding purpose in life.” You know, find your purpose and focus on that. Stop making excuses and get to it. Oh boy, this may be a little much for me. Are you here to be a great husband, father, and community builder, or are you here to watch Netflix?

Sure, sure, maybe I should do that personally. But it got me thinking about what our purpose is as the radio industry. Do we know our purpose? Our real purpose—what we mean to consumers—or what we could mean to them?

It seemed so easy years ago. Play better records, find a more entertaining morning show, think up some memorable promotions—and good things will happen. Radio is everywhere. Turn your Cume into fans and you’ll win.

Then it got a lot more complicated. Sorry, to win today you need to do more than sound somewhat better than the other radio stations in town. I know we all spend a good part of our day trying to make our stations sound better—and I think that’s important—but it may not save the day anymore.

We need to get back to our purpose. What would make someone do anything to listen to our radio station? Hide under the sheets at night so mom and dad wouldn’t know they were listening? How do we develop superfans like the ones Taylor Swift has found a way to generate by the millions? Over the years, our programming mentors taught us how to create compelling content and bigger-than-life promotions that electrified an audience.

What happened? Did we forget our purpose? Radio is here to entertain by whatever means. To connect with an audience. Give listeners a reason to make us a part of their lives. Earn that, never assume it.

Certainly, the world changed. But what happened to the kind of radio that was so amazing that you and I didn’t want to get out of the car because we didn’t want to miss something? Please don’t tell me that all of that is only on Spotify or a podcast. There is no monopoly on great entertainment.

Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel and Saturday Night Live rely upon the same “raw material” to entertain as radio does. They have access to most of the same musical guests. They work hard every day to make magic happen. It is up to us to transform those raw elements into something that lights up a radio audience.

One of my favorite clients once asked: Can’t you include a question in your study that just answers my hardest question—what would make you listen more? My response: If we can refine your music recipe and morning show and strengthen what your brand means, won’t that make them listen more? Maybe I was a little defensive, maybe a bit stuck in one view of the world.

I think it is time to get crazy. Try things that have never been done before. Did you know they wanted to fire Rush Limbaugh when he first got started because he was the rogue newscaster who had the gall to comment on the news? Instead, he started a new format. The history of Sports Radio isn’t much different. Sure there were a few hour-long sports talk shows dating back to the 1960s on WNBC, but there weren’t any dedicated all-sports stations until the late 80s and the arrival of WFAN in New York.

You have the ideas. Let’s get crazy and try some of them. Let’s find our purpose again.

One thought on “What Is the Purpose of Your Radio Station?”

  1. Dave Mason

    A great way to describe the current bottom line!! The world has changed a little – we’ve dealt with a grump president, a grumpy population and a definite lack of heroes. TV doesn’t have ’em, the late night talk shows are full of negative comments and no one is standing up for the regular guy. Rush did that-and his replacements don’t. God forbid they should offend someone. If you want Rush’s formula, just look at Wikipedia. No one has what Rush had-the timing, the humor, the content. It does seem that later on in his life he started to “believe” what he said-and got a little too serious (my opinion) -but the fun of what he presented has yet to be equaled by anyone. Being cynical is easy I guess. Being CREATIVE and cynical- well much of it has been smothered. The big companies will NOT allow the rebels (like Rush) to emerge until it becomes their last resort before they disappear. Where are the upcoming radio rebels?

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