Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Clear Channel: Less Commercials, Mo' Money

Good ol' monolith Clear Channel is reporting higher radio earnings for the first time in a couple of years, and is attributing that fact to the success of their "Less Is More" strategy - that is, their radio stations are actually playing less commercials. And, umm, that's good. That's certainly part of terrestrial radio's strategy against the onslaught of satellite, and it's a smart idea that needs to be widely imitated, SOON. For instance: the 6 to 7 am hour on Curtis and Kuby's WABC 770 show has no commercials, which frees up the hosts quite a bit, gives the discussion some momentum, and makes for a more freewheeling and entertaining hour, if you find Curtis and Kuby entertaining (which I do, to an extent). Of course, the pair are campaigning hard to pick up some of Howard's former listeners - there are C&K billboards all over town stating "No Stern? No Problem" - so the show's low commercial "load" may not be part of a larger strategy, more of a "let's get listeners now, then drag in back all the ads" kinda thing. (WABC is owned by Disney, but is getting sold to Citadel; some folks at the NY Radio Message Board are hopeful the transfer will lead to improved programming at the station, but I wouldn't get my hopes up too high.)

Clear Channel owns 6 of New York's radio stations, including some of the most successful ones (4 of the city's top 10, according to this list), but I wish they owned WCBS or WINS, two stations that play so many commercials that they're unlistenable for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I'm sure those station's managers have research that shows that their listeners only tune in for short periods, usually to catch some traffic or weather or a couple of headlines. So the station thinks they have to stuff their hours with spots. But I'd argue they'd get lengthier "listens", and more loyal and upscale listeners, if they'd cut down on the ads in a significant way, and let their anchors have a bit of breathing room. I'd certainly listen, it'd be great to be able to listen to local radio news for a decent length of time; both stations have a local, sarcastic, tabloid NYC flavor that the chilly NPR types at WNYC lack.

1 comment:

Ken Lott said...

Just a comment about cutting down the ads ... you're right. More people would listen if there were less ads. I worked for a long time as a radio commercial copy writer and producer (WHUD, Peekskill) and we knew a secret - if the ads are really good you don't need as many of them to sell your store's widgets. We didn't tell the advertisers that, of course. Then, too, if the ads are really good they are not annoying to listen to ... AND they sell widgets!

I've had a lot of people tell me lately that they love satellite radio because there are no commercials. Well, that cuts me to the quick. I always thought I was performing a valuable service to mankind. But I've been wrong before.

I used to get calls from listeners who clammered, "put me on the air, I want to say something about that!" Figuring that most people really don't have anything salient or clever to say but just want to feed their own ego, my response was always, "If you want to say something on the air, get your own show!" I guess a lot of them did.