Radio Programming Future

Eventually we will use ultra-wide spread-spectrum orthogonal frequency division multiplexing techniques for all wireless communications because this method utilizes spectrum and energy more efficiently.

We are moving in this direction with the evolving technologies of Internet wireless transmission, cellular networks, and digital radio and television. These will merge into one ultra-broadband wireless digital network.

You’ll listen to your favorite radio station, watch your favorite television program, interact on the Internet, talk on the phone, anywhere on the planet. Reliability will improve at lower power levels resulting in reduced levels of electromagnetic pollution and carbon dioxide.

There is a cloud to this silver lining. Greater channel capacity, providing the consumer with more choices results in fewer viewers per channel, lower revenue per channel, and lower quality programming.

The global reach of each channel compensates but you lose local relevance. Perhaps a situation will emerge in which quality draws a large enough audience to sustain itself.

As satellite and cable have made many more television channels available, we haven’t seen quality improve. Gone are theme songs. Real actors are replaced by Joe Average seeking glory on reality TV, which also eliminates the need for writers. Create an unreal situation and then let nature take it’s course. Writers can find work creating news.

Radio is moving towards greater use of automation, syndication, and lack of professionalism. Dead air, bad queues, and bad taste seem to be the norm. Recent ownership rules that allowing a single entity to own several hundred stations greatly reduces competition, diversity, and local relevance.

Expanded channel capacity is going to worsen these existing trends but will make narrowcasting practical. Finding specialized programming will become easier. Now you can take that radio proctocology coarse you’ve always wanted.

Advanced civilizations still using radio will have moved to this model because of the efficiencies. SETI is unlikely to be productive looking for narrow band carriers. A carrier is a waste of energy. Allocating tiny bits of spectrum to individual channels is a waste of spectrum. We’re not going to find ET on the radio unless we look at a broad bandwidth and spread spectrum encoding characteristics. I wonder if ET has found a way to address the program quality issues.

KNDD Enercom Kaplan

I’ve listened to KNDD 107.7 since they went on the air back in 1991. They are not my ideal. If it were up to me, I’d most definitely make changes. In terms of what is available from commercial broadcast stations in the Seattle area, they were the best.

Recently Enercom has replaced Lazlo as program director with Kaplan, an import from New Orleans. Harms is leaving for the UK. Lazlo has returned to Kansas (there’s no place like home). Since Harms and Lazlo shared the function of music director, someone else will need to assume that function. Even before the replacement of Lazlo, changes were made that I find objectionable.

One of the things I’ve always liked about KNDD is that KNDD has involved the audience. It’s not a one-way, or at least hasn’t been a one-way interaction. While their competitor, Jack FM (KJAQ) played established corporate crap, KNDD played new up and coming artists. The established artists KNDD does play are those that are clearly in it for the art first. When I hear Jack say, “We play what we want to”, my response is “And I listen to what I want to”. I promptly turn Jack off. I couldn’t resist the pun, it’s about only thing Jack is useful for.

At KNDD, audience interaction seemed to gradually decline over the years, until Lazlo came to Seattle. At that point it improved substantially. The Summer Beach House was a brilliant move, but they used it much more effectively last year. This year it received minimal promotion and there really didn’t seem to be many significant events. The energy that was there last year didn’t manifest this year.

This year much of the live local broadcasting has been replaced with automation and syndicated irrelevant garbage. I apologize in advance for those of you who actually like Adam Corolla. I found him funny for the first couple of weeks, and after that grating. His show is irrelevant to the local scene. People in Seattle want to know about what is happening in Seattle not what is happening in Los Angeles.

Impulse radio sucks. Given a chance to vote between three usually marginal songs is just stupid; it’s a poor excuse for audience interaction.

The Church of Lazlo show excelled with regard to interactively involving the audience. I did feel that Lazlo was not really deserving of the leading role, I found Slim Fast to be more entertaining. Still, I am sorry to see Lazlo leave, though I can catch him on the web at the Buzz back in Kansas. Their internet feed is excellent. The sound quality is much better than The End’s internet feed. That’s another thing KNDD needs to fix. In fact their entire website could be vastly improved and used much more effectively.

I’m not thrilled at substitution of music with some stupid talk shows like their love-line at night. It is so incredibly tacky. If it weren’t for the last two presidential elections, I could never have brought myself to believe there were people who were that stupid. I don’t see the benefit of putting them on the air.

KNDD’s intended demographic, which is geared towards young people not old farts like me, is under represented in Arbitron ratings by virtue of the fact that Arbitron relies heavily on telephone surveys which exclude cell phones and younger people tend to use cell phones to the exclusion of wired phones.

In my view KNDD should address that head on. Use their own medium to sell themselves and state that fact publicly. Challenge potential customers to try advertising on KNDD and track sales and compare sales performance with other stations. Offer them a heavily discounted trial package to allow them to make this comparison at low risk.

If KNDD did things right, audience station loyalty would contribute to advertising effectiveness and by extension, sales, but canceling popular shows and then offering no explanation to the audience is not the way to engender audience loyalty. Concentrate sales on local business that are relevant to the demographic and interesting.

I said KNDD was not my ideal, and I want to elaborate a bit on that. I loved the old Mexican border stations, not because I was fond of much of the music they played but the energy level of the stations. It was like life energy flowed out of their antennas. There were many aspects that contributed to that but the formula isn’t that difficult.

Hire people that actually enjoy what they’re doing. Many of KNDD’s staff sound like they hated to drag their asses into work, aren’t real thrilled with people, and are only mildly enthusiastic about the music. and it’s not what they say it’s how they say it. Seattle has a lot of excellent college radio stations, and they produce many good eager people looking for jobs in radio. People that are a lot more enthusiastic, a lot hungrier, and just more fun to listen to than people whining on the air about their lot in life. Hire some of these people.

Involve college radio station talent where they are. They are much more connected to the Seattle music scene than people who are “in the industry”. Set up a deal where you have a guest DJ from one of these stations for a portion of the air time at least twice a week. Within the limits permitted by the FCC, encourage them to introduce new music.

Get rid of dead air, absolutely eliminate it. This is a biggie on the Mexican border stations and I think it contributes strongly to keeping the audiences attention. No dead air, not for a millisecond, even during announcements. Use something to fill the space, if not background music, then some reverb, sound effects, etc, something so that silence does not happen. Hire people who can actually hit a queue. If they can’t queue out of song that ends hard and into another song that starts hard without dead air or overlap, find someone who can. That used to be considered an essential talent.

Don’t use a separate board-op and radio personality; it takes away a portion of control from the DJ making a coherent presentation of the program impossible. If they can’t operate the board, get someone who can.

I did a stint as a PD at a small AM station years ago. It was in financial trouble when I came in, but in two months we turned it around from losing money to making money. That was a low power AM, which is much more difficult with a music format than high power FM. They were too far in debt and too far behind so banks foreclosed even though we were able to make payments. It lasted long enough for me to know it’s a working formula. Involve the audience to the extreme, keep it exciting, and eliminate dead air. People want to relate to a human element that presents excitement and enthusiasm. It’s contagious and people want to be a part of that and they want to introduce their friends to that excitement.

The Beach House was a good move but it is under-utilized. Some larger events coordinated with the city with a tent and bandstand on the beach across the street could draw much larger crowds and be even more effective. Other radio stations have done that in the past.

Talk to some of the common local music venues like the Trolley Tavern, Blue Moon Tavern, Showbox, Crocodile Cafe. Arrange to broadcast live some of the better bands. The venue gets free advertising, the band gets increased exposure, and the listeners get some exciting live music and more opportunities to interact in person, and the station gets some additional exposure.

KNDD rules regarding the music I agree with except for the no-talk over rule. Replace it with a no-dead air, minimal talk-over depending upon the material, but absolutely no talk-over the lyrics ever, with the possible exception of the White Stripes or Beastie Boys, in that case, talk loudly over the entire piece though I’d eliminate the majority of Beastie Boys and White Stripes because all of their songs sound the same with only a few exceptions.

There are songs that have really cool intros that you don’t want to obscure; there are others that have eight identical boring bars before they get into interesting. The latter should be talked over, the former not. Dead air needs to eliminated. It only takes about a second for someone to decide to hit the change button but people are reluctant to do so when there is sound. Tom Shane commercials, NO NO NO!

Spell out to advertisers, if they’re producing their own commercials, they have to fit the format, no dead air; no droning, (Tom I’m talking about you), no droning, no monotonous please kill me droning. If you really do things right, station loyalty will contribute to advertising effectiveness and by extension sales.

That’s my two cents worth regarding KNDD’s replacement of Lazlo with Kaplan and recent trends there. I hope things get better but I’d be lying big time if I thought I could say I felt optimistic.