Finally, I finished the All Access newsletter, after rewriting the entire thing twice. I think it came out, um, adequate:
Some of the big name radio bosses did a panel the other day about the business, and it went pretty much as you'd expect. They all burst out into tears and asked for forgiveness, and the whole thing ended with a group hug.
No, actually, they all basically said that there's nothing wrong with radio, really, nothing, trust us, and it's all a matter of perception and stuff. Sure, they said, there's technological competition, but radio can compete with that because of all the reasons you've heard before. And while they were talking about that, the eerie spectre of That Memo hung over all of them.
You've heard about That Memo already, the Great Hiring Freeze Of 2008 Memo, in which one company's new Private Equity Overlords issued a do-not-spend-a-dime edict (indirectly, of course, since, technically, they don't own the company yet). Remember when people were saying how great it was that media companies were getting taken private, because that meant less pressure from Wall Street and no more panic to make the quarterly budget? The private equity firms will look for the long term, they said. Happy days are here again. How's THAT workin' out for you?
You would be forgiven for being confused when the heads of the big radio companies touted a bright future for the industry while, outside the panel, there are hiring freezes and end-of-quarter firings and morning shows voicetracking afternoon shows for no additional salary. It's as if there were two different radio industries, the one we live in and the Bizarro World version where the future's all bright and shiny and filled with cars that fly and robots who cook your dinner, wash your dishes and pick up the dry cleaning.
Yet they're both real.
Radio HAS lost listeners... but, statistically, not that many, not nearly the number you'd assume from the dire news reports. Radio DOES suffer from the perception that it's old, uncool, bland, predictable... but some of that is deserved. Radio revenues ARE down... but it's still making money. People DO still use radio in large numbers... but you can't guarantee that will be the case as other technologies become more prevalent, especially in cars. Everything cuts both ways.
But the reality right now for you, the rank and file of the business, is that as long as the big bosses' bosses -- the investors, who I picture as portly older gentlemen in top hats and monocles and handlebar mustaches fiendishly cackling as they polish their pocket watches and think up ways to squeeze every penny out of you -- are of the mindset that a) the company has to hit its numbers, however unrealistic they were, and b) if revenues aren't where they want them, then cut, cut, cut, things aren't going to get better. Cutting into the talent and research budgets affects the product. Cutting into the marketing budget affects audience size. Those are not good things if you're trying to increase revenue. And you can't cut everyone.
Maybe, however, there's a silver lining here. If one company is freezing and cutting and trying to make its new investors happy, the competition has a huge opportunity. This is a great chance for other companies to take advantage when their biggest competitor -- the one everyone complains owns too many stations and wields too much market power -- has a hand tied behind its back. They can't spend? That's when YOU spend -- hit them with marketing when they can't effectively respond, hire the talent that they can't, get your websites and streaming and podcasts up to 2008 standards and ramp that side of the business up. This could be a real turning point. It could. Really.
Or the investors in those other companies might see all that cutting and freezing and think, hey, why don't WE do that, too? And if they do... that wouldn't be good. But I understand there are a lot of openings in the exciting and glamorous world of long-haul trucking.
But before you call the number for the trucking school you saw advertised during "Maury," you may have a show to do. And in that case, you'll surely want to stop by All Access News-Talk-Sports and the Talk Topics show prep column, where so far this week we have items on a guy whose truck's about to pass the million mile mark, the Worst Building in the History of Mankind (which, despite what you think, is not your studio building or even the transmitter shack), a debate on whether thin is in or fat is where it's at, another reason to hate the cable company, why not to stop when you see a disabled car at the roadside, the NFL versus churches, the unexpected cost of selling on eBay, why some people think that guy who lost billions for that French bank is a hero, Ralph Nader's restlessness, why blue-eyed people are mutants, ads on school buses, a chicken who lays green eggs (really!), how the Super Bowl can kill you, the health dangers of "double dipping," and much, much more, including election stuff, football stuff, Britney stuff, all kindsa stuff. You should also check out "10 Questions With..." the very funny 710 ESPN/L.A. afternoon guy Dave Dameshek and the rest of All Access with Net News, Net Talk, Net Columns, Net Arbitron ratings, Net job listings, the Net Industry Directory, and other Net goodies. It's Netlicious. And free. Net.
My Super Bowl pick? The team that wears red, white, and blue. Plus, the words "an all-new 'House'" will be uttered 5,732 times during the Fox telecast. It's a lock.