From "Inside Radio":
The National Association of Black Journalists is urging Citadel to halt its negotiations with Don Imus about a possible return to radio. NABJ VP Ernie Suggs says "it seems inconceivable" that less than a year after Imus was fired from CBS Radio that another broadcaster would consider putting him back on the air. They're also going after Fox TV which may be considering simulcasting Imus' radio show.
Here we go again. Hopefully Citadel will show more backbone than CBS-Radio did. Do we really want to create a radio world where it's impossible to say anything for fear it will be spun in the most polarizing way possible?
The Format Not Taken By John Mainelli
In return for great times in the radio biz over the years, I’m giving something back. Merry Christmas. Here’s a $50+ million format. It’s all yours. Have fun.
But will you? Will you appreciate what I’m talking about? Will you know a gift horse when it bites you?
It seems that even more has changed with the radio industry than we thought.
Nobody aspires to be number one in the market anymore. Most are looking to find little format voids and make predictable amounts of modest money.
Seeing no handwriting on the wall, many FM operators are merrily tweaking subtle variations of the same playlists and making the same – or less – money year after year.
Apart from Limbaugh, Hannity and Savage, most AM operators are filling time with godawful second- and third-tier syndicated gasbags.
My gift to you is a format that Jacor, Chancellor, American Radio Systems, Evergreen, Infinity, Group W, ABC/ABC, Cap Cities/ABC – but not Disney/ABC –would have killed for.
It’s young-guy talk.
And, no, I don’t mean so-called “beer and babes” (I cleaned that up). And, no, I don’t mean programming that will turn legal into nervous wrecks or fill your parking lot with protest groups.
I do mean a format that (1) has killer, hard-to-get demos; (2) is PPM-compatible; (3) can’t be stolen after a trip to Virgin Records; (4) can run considerably more commercials than music formats; (5) is a great showcase for commercials because people listen to it; (6) generates loyalty that will last for years; (7) isn’t as expensive as you think; (8) is easily syndicate-able.
If you didn’t know, I was brought in by CBS to fix its broken Free FM in New York last November. After little more than one book with the revamp, Free FM II was on the verge of overtaking every other non-music station in town – talk, news, sports – in 18-49 and 25-54.
Then came Imus and, in my opinion, other self-inflicted trauma involving JV & Elvis – not to mention unnecessary XM-inflicted trauma with Opie & Anthony. CBS freaked. Pulled the plug. K-Rock returned in May. I wish them luck but, if I was a young guy today (in truth, I have never grown up) I would be so over with listening to music on FM.
How is it possible to succeed with young-guy talk without resorting to cheap-shot beer & babes?
Two ingredients: humor and subversive-ness. Tell me what young guy doesn’t crave both, won’t tell all his friends, and won’t force his girlfriend to listen?
In these lawyered-up days of tight-assed P.C., young guys need freedom. A chance to laugh. A chance to satirize. A chance to vent. (Can you believe Fox’s over-bleeping at the Emmys?)
Now I’m going to give you some names for this format, since I’m tired of hearing, “There’s no talent out there.” This consultation is so valuable that you’re going to have to declare it on your income tax even if you just read it.
In no apparent order, without even thinking too hard: Bill Burr & Joe DeRosa; Patrice Oneal; Nick DiPaolo; Tom Leykis (V1.0); Bob Kelly; Mos Def; Jim Norton (maybe partnered with Anthony Cumia if the latter promises to work harder and play with his money only on weekends); Lynn Samuels; Ron & Fez; Lionel; JV & Elvis; Scott Ferrall; Jim Florentine; Phil Hendrie (if he’ll hang his bits more often on current events).
I’m laughing my ass off already. I can’t wait to tell my friends.
Do I fear somebody stealing my people and my format? Uh, no. Almost certainly, they won’t do it right. The PD will be likely be clueless, the consultant a charlatan. (Sadly, this has been the case with talk on FM more often than not.) They’ll restrict. They’ll nit-pick. They’ll suffocate. They’ll panic.
It is critical to coach, support, run interference for, critique and defend true talent every hour of every day. This is not a hobby. This is not for PDs who always go out for lunch, obsess with e-mail and message boards, meld with their telephones, or feather their nests with meetings and cronies.
It’s for the PD who is really the executive producer, 24/7, and who spends as much time in the studio, control room and producer pit as he does in his office.
Most importantly, this PD really has to like talk radio. It’s my opinion that too many talk PDs don’t really enjoy and/or understand the format they’re working in. Frankly, you have to be slightly unbalanced to really get into talk radio – to where you listen to it because you want to. And, yes, I am unbalanced, as many of you know.
Beware the slick, pro-sounding show wherein several people talk and giggle without tripping over their words but have no humor, no soul, no depth.
Beware, also, that almost everyone has at least one good talk show in them, so one time is never the charm.
Fear slick. Crave eccentricity. Talk rules.
John Mainelli is consultant and a veteran talk radio programmer. His last mission was the now defunct Free-FM on 92.3 FM in NYC. The views expressed are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 October 2007
From "Inside Radio":