It’s Thursday, Must Be Radio: Avoiding the “Jockless” Itch

So as I trekked across the middle of the country on what I
call the “Midwest Swing” (MN, IA, MO, KS, NE) for the holidays, we passed
through Omaha. I
had been alerted by my friend and former mid-day announcer, Shari Stone, that the
Adult Contemporary station we had signed on some 5 years back, Literock 101.9,
KLTQ, had just changed format. Back then the station debuted big, dispatching
the long-time market leading AC to its own format change a few years later. Lite
(as it had become known) had suffered ratings declines in recent years due to
many reasons, not the least of which was a lack of commitment to marketing.


When I tuned in 101.9 on this trip to listen to the new
station, 101-9, the Big “O”, I can tell you I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad. I
had built Literock, my first AC, from the ground up and had a chance to work with
some great people doing it. What has replaced it is another “hybrid” Rock/AC (think
Ben, Jack, etc.) with a pop rock lean…ho-hum.

Whether this station will be successful is not the issue
here. What is the issue and what really grinds my gears, chaps
my hide, (insert cliché here), is that it is running “jockless”. This is the
tactic that  many “new” formats use to, as us programmers like to say, “establish
a music position.” Play nothing but music for months (in this case, I’ve been
told 3-6 of ‘em) then…maybe…add personalities. Of course, it’s also a hell of
lot cheaper to not pay personalities.


Okay, gang it’s time to stop this. The days of building a
lasting radio station on the foundation of being a jukebox are, or should, be
behind us. In the case of the Big “O”, or hybrids like it, which is playing
music that can be found in many places on the dial in Omaha, there is no music position. (Please,
for the love of God, don’t use the word “variety”.)


For years everyone from PD’s, and consultants to owners, VP’s
and researchers have been saying that compelling content and local appeal is
what will keep radio relevant. It’s time to listen. Further, if you want to
reach anyone under the age of 30 for longer than a month, non-stop music is not
nearly compelling enough, period.

If the plan is to introduce “jocks” after that 3-6 months,
good luck. You’ve just spent the last 90 to 180 days building the expectation in
the audience, one I contest is continually shrinking, that you are all music. Imagine
how thrilled they will be when all of sudden there are people talking…no matter
how much.

It’s time to start launching new formats (emphasis on new) with
a full staff intact. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. Just think; right
out of the gate, real people to be fans of the station, talk about the great music,
entertain, meet and talk to the audience. Yep, living breathing humans to build
relationships with the audience, and serve the clients (and earn their money). Most
importantly, real personalities will build the audience’s expectations that the
station is relevant and will be part of their lives for years to come…right from
the start! It will cost a few shekels more but will pay off in the
long run.

Oh yeah, radio should think in terms of the “long run” more.