I’m not likely to make many new friends in broadcasting with this column, and I may even lose a few; but what you are about to read is something I feel I’m more than qualified to offer an opinion on.
Much has been made about newspapers being on the brink of extinction and while I don’t dispute the internet has had a negative impact, the reality is that weeklies, such as this newspaper, will always have their place in society. In smaller communities, providing content so people can stay informed as to what is happening in their area is still crucial and the best place to get that in Yorkton is from Yorkton This Week. They have stayed up to date with the technology world by offering more timely content on its website to go along with features that are not outdated after a week. Meanwhile, television and radio stations continue to deteriorate their local profiles. If they are as involved as they were even, say five years ago, then I’m missing something.
When I was a young broadcaster, it was driven home by management to be as local as possible because that’s the big benefit a smaller radio or tv station would have over a larger one. What has happened, however, in recent years is that big city thinking (management) has chopped the people who provide the local content and radio stations become poorly programmed boom boxes of music, bad announcers (because they are paid wages below the poverty line, in some cases), and very little in the way of local content that has real substance (lay-offs mean what few good people remain on staff, there is simply way too much to cover and nothing gets done the way it should). Hard to believe but a lot of broadcast companies are run by business people who know nothing about the industry. It would be like hiring me to manage a farm implement dealership. It would be out of business in record time.
When I worked on the radio, there was an obvious divide between on-air people and sales staff. The main reason was that on-air folks believed a sales person would sell his mother if it meant putting a few dollars into radio station coffers. We’d also see, repeatedly, sponsors getting ripped off for what they buy as the effort put into the client was, often, far less than what that sponsor should expect judging on what they are paying on a monthly or yearly basis. Shortcuts and misleading statements seemed to be the pattern. My favorite one was ‘100 name mentions through live on-air announcer promos’. Impossible. And, whenever we did do a live promo, we weren’t stroking it off and saying “Well, that was live promo number 38”.
I used to joke while I worked in television that a sales manager would rather sell a client bars and tone (emergency test pattern, that annoying 30 second beep) instead of actual content because on-air people are seen as an expense or a necessary evil of selling advertising time. It wasn’t graspable for a sales person to comprehend that a sponsor would want to buy a segment of the news because it was good enough for folks to watch. The sales person only thought there was 30 seconds of available time so someone may as well use it up. The news is, merely, an interruption in sales programming that everyone should want to watch with great excitement and anticipation.
Well, I feel the time has come that sponsors are starting to take notice that what they are buying isn’t anywhere close to what they are receiving and unless the big suits that run some of these smaller broadcast outlets change, they will be caught in a situation where it’s impossible to sell. Good sales people will quit and go work somewhere else (some already have). In a day and age where the consumer can listen to any radio station in the world through a cell phone or program his/her own station with an App, it is incumbent on small radio (and tv) stations to be more local than ever.
This could mean employing a few more people so you can do the job effectively. I know. Appalling. The audacity of a radio sales person walking into a client and saying, “I had to raise your price by $10 a spot because we are hiring more staff to provide better local content to ensure we maintain listenership.” What’s more likely to happen is prices will go up (inflation), staff will get cut, and more beans go into the jeans (if he/she wears jeans) of the radio station’s head honcho.
Here’s something to think about: If I hear a car dealer’s ad on the radio, I’m not going to pay attention to it unless I want a car. However, if I am in the market for a car, I may go to a website or a newspaper and browse the selection. Or, even look at a billboard to see what the special of the season could be. And, I will do this when it’s convenient for me, not when it’s convenient for a radio station to schedule when an ad gets played. I feel potential advertisers are understanding this more and more and tough times are ahead for broadcast outlets.
So, don’t be so quick to be writing a newspaper’s obituary, which, by the way, is also a very important aspect of print media and another reason why the newspaper will always be here to stay.
In closing, I am not a paid employee of Yorkton This Week. I write what I want and the deal is I don’t get censored. One day they may say my columns are no longer welcomed, but this is not meant to be a ‘suck up’ piece.
Have a great week, nice person mentions return next week.