I listened to 10 hours of streaming, on-demand radio and podcasts. Non-stop. I didn’t seek out fringe offerings. I was doing due diligence to hear what some consider to be the best news and talk offerings the U.S. has to offer.
I was duly impressed with the juggernaut that is WTOP – “Washington’s TOP News.” Always a ratings and revenue winner. The powers that be, and I assume Jim Farley is to credit, have found the delicate balance between authoritative and approachable, credible in content and casual or accessible in delivery. They make it seem natural and easy. It’s not. All radio news folk should listen to the morning drive team as inspiration.
That’s the good news.
What I encountered for most of my 10 hours of sensory assault was racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, thoughtless garbage. Some of America’s iconic radio stations and shows are stuck in the past. They are unaware, unstructured, unprepared, and undermining radio’s credibility and relevance. It makes me wonder who is minding the store. Who is coaching talent, air-checking, providing vision and evolving the product to exceed the expectations of the listeners? From offensive Asian accents and decades old stereotypes to provoking coworkers to assault each other with racist and sexist insults. It really is the worst that radio has to offer.
And apparently iHeartMedia and Cumulus don’t care, because… why? The shows/talent are generating too much revenue, they don’t scrutinize content only numbers, or they really don’t care what people think. It is a shame that radio has to suffer for these fools. There are too many pros doing remarkable radio that the industry should be defined by lazy, uninspired, reactionary, out of touch offerings like I experienced.
We must expect more from our peers.
On Friday, after a day of travel I pulled into a Burger King drive-thru. I was 30 minutes into my 2 1/2 hour drive from the airport to home. I didn’t eat on the plane and needed a quick fueling. The man with the headset took my order and told me to pull up to the first window. I could see him in through the drive-thru window ahead. As always the speaker quality was questionable, but I know this routine.
It took 30 minutes to creep 20 feet from the speaker to the first window. The guy was racing around and explaining his cook ran out midway through his shift. He was by himself running drive-thru, front counter and grill.
The problem for me was that I was trapped. Everyone in the drive-thru was trapped. There was no warning of the issues inside the King’s castle: no sign, no notice, and no way out. Once I cued up there were high curbs and shrubbery on either side. Trust me, I contemplated an escape.
When I pulled up for my food, it had been 45 minutes since I ordered. I kindly suggested they might have warned us it would be that long before placing the order.
(wait for it…)
He suggested that wouldn’t be good for business.
Feel free to share your lessons from this story in the comments below.
After talking at length with researcher Richard Harker (hear the interview here), watching this 25 minute video on the science of watermarking audio, reading blogs and articles and then comparing it all to my personal experiences with PPM data, I believe the issues with PPM are nearing DEFCON1 for our industry.
Some things all radio broadcasters should know about PPM
The PPM tones are encoded and masked by other audio. If there is no audio on your radio station, there is no PPM encoding. If you are a spoken word radio station every time the host stops talking, takes a breath or a dramatic pause – the PPM tone stops encoding.
The PPM tones encode at certain frequencies (1 to 3 kilohertz), much higher frequencies than a typical male radio announcer, meaning higher pitched voices and music actually be decoded more consistently.
There has been no test results, at least released to the radio industry, how loud the radio station must be playing or how close to the radio the PPM device needs to be in order for the masked tone to be recognized and decoded. Though it is noteworthy that background radio station formats, like smooth jazz, have suffered greatly in the PPM era.
Audio watermarking technology can be wobbly leaving gaps (some small, some giant) in decoding and unknown amounts of unreported listening.
PPM encoding on internet streams is even less reliable. Just like a .jpg or .mp3 is compressed to make smaller files, your internet stream is compressed too, which means there is even less audio to mask the tone behind.
Because of these factors, some radio stations may only be encoding 50% of the time or sometimes even less and receiving greatly reduced credit in listening compared to what is actually happening.
Radio should be mad as hell. This is costing people jobs, livelihoods, and impacting radio families across the country. Programmers, myself included, have made “strategic” adjustments to shows, personalities, and formatics based on inaccurate PPM data.
If I’m Premiere Radio or really any big radio company I’m lawyering up. With the hit talk radio has taken in recent years (see: Rush) could it be that the audience likes it fine, but PPM doesn’t?
Fight back. The Voltair seems to be a worthy investment for some stations. It essentially makes your watermarked audio easier for the PPM to recognize and decode.
Also, and this goes against my better judgement, if you’re News/Talk or Sports I would seriously consider adding a music bed or crowd noise at all times so the encoding never stops.
Larry Gifford answers 3 questions about radio; What do you do when news breaks? What do I think of the Doug & Wolf segment that almost came to blows? and Should the FCC ban the word “Redskins?
Okay folks we all know networking is key in getting your next gig and advancing your radio career. However, there are right ways to network and wrong ways to network. This is an example of a wrong way. The conversation is real. The names and pictures have been changed to protect them from ridicule. Look at the time stamps.
This guy waited 90 minutes before assuming “Jane” was blowing him off. Poor form. Be patient. People are busy. The only person who considers you top priority is you. Sometimes it takes me a week to get back to someone. I wish it didn’t, but it’s reality.
Jane eventually did offer Dick some good advice.
The Weekly Radio Stuff “Radio News Quiz.” Each week in the Radio Stuff podcast I offer up 10 questions about this week in radio news. You can listen to the quiz and answers here or read them below and click on links to stories to reveal the answers. Good Luck!
LET THE QUIZ BEGIN!
1. What superstar singer decided to release his first new song in a longtime on RADIO first this week? (A: Click here)
2. At one point, he was the most listened to morning man in the U-S, this week his Spanish language show on SiriusXM was canceled. Who is he? (A: Click here)
3. The Mike Calta Show debuted this week on 102.5 The Bone in Tampa. What controversial host did he replace? (A: Click here)
4. KIIS 106.5, the home of Australia’s Kyle & Jackie O, removed WHAT from the station website this week, but may face legal challenges anyway? (A: Click here)
5. For 32 years, he’s been David Letterman’s band leader. At the end of this year Letterman is retiring, but this man promises to keep doing his radio show “Day in Rock.” Who is he? (A: Click here)
6. Over Labor Day weekend, Radio Station WDRC-FM in Hartford gave away hundreds of dollars away in a unique promotion. No one knew that a radio station was involved, until it was over. What did they do? (A: Click here)
7, What lightning rod ESPN TV host left his ESPN Radio Show in New York to join SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio this week? (A: Click here)
8. Which interview conducted by Nick Grimshaw on BBC Radio 1 this week went viral? (A: Click here)
9. What former Playboy centerfold, who just married Donnie Wahlberg last weekend, now has her own show on SiriusXM titled “Dirty, Sexy, Funny?” (A: Click here)
10. For several minutes Scottish radio host Robin Galloway thought he was off air, he couldn’t hear his co-host and his producer feared for his job. What happened? (A: Click here)
How many did you get correct?
1-3 – A participation certificate
4-6 – A gold star!
7-8 – You’re pretty smart
9-10 – Way to go! (virtual pat on the back)