Some very smart radio people from around the planet are in LA this week for something called the Worldwide Radio Summit, a two-day conference designed to discuss the current state of radio and the future of the medium.
Here are some highlights.
-A panel of radio group CEOs made me mad. On one hand, everyone talked about the necessity of investing in talent and the importance of content. On the other, they whinged about too much regulation and the need to create "efficiencies" (i.e. cut staff, more voicetracking, etc.) The best part of the panel was when Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey was served with a subpoena in front of everything.
-The general sentiment is that more spoken word formats will migrate to FM, pushing out music stations, creating a situation analogous to when talk radio took over AM twenty years ago. Where will music go? More and more online, it seems.
-"Voicetracking is good! It brings better talent to markets that wouldn't otherwise afford it. If done properly, voicetracking is a fantastic service to the listener. The notion of 'live and local' is bullshit!"
-"Voicetracking is bad! It has killed the farm system and training ground for new on-air personalities. Listeners know when someone is not in their hometown. 'Live and local is bullshit?' Bullshit."
-Satellite radio's growth seems have to stalled. The industry is going to have a hard time justifying their current price points as people increasingly use smart phones to access commercial free music streams.
Another popular sentiment: too much time is being spent on sales and increasing margins and not nearly enough time on content. Part of the issue is that the program director not only has to worry about the on-air programming (sometimes for two or more stations), but the website, the listener database, the online stream, podcasts, texting initiatives, announcer blogs, mobile needs, video content, Facebook and Twitter.
Meanwhile, announcers are being expected to do many more things simultaneously while on the air. The on-air product suffers.
The four most important services radio provides: (1) Something to listen to while at work; (2) To put people in a better mood; (3) Companionship; and (4) Escape.
The importance of request lines has dropped. Email is the most effective way for an announcer to connect with the indivdual listener.
63% of alt-rock fans have smart phones. About 50% of them listen to Internet radio regularly.
Radio is not the first point of media contact in a person's day that it once was. People are turning to TV or online when they get ready for work instead of radio. That has to change.
Facebook is more popular with radio listeners than programmers realize. Two-thirds of radio listeners visit Facebook at least once a day. Some 13% are on FB constantly. Stations need to use a Facebook presence to push people to their website.
Great insight: "It's the norm today for kids to use a smart phone to listen to radio." In other words, if you're not getting involved in mobile delivery of your product, you're f**ked.
That's just a fast summary of some of the great and interesting concepts that were floated. If you're at the conference, please feel free to add additional thoughts and notes in the comments section below.
Once I get home and get a chance to digest more of what I've seen, I'll file a report.