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Why Even Try

Listening to multiple radio stations on a recent drive during the Independence Day long holiday weekend, it hit me between the eyes how many were airing fill-in talent or substitute shows. Be it local origination or network/syndication, that isn’t what they normally air at that time, programming schedules were turned upside down. I understand the necessity to give talent a day off, or an alternate day in exchange for them working on a holiday, but it isn’t lost on me that the desire to satisfy an audience has waned. Which is counterintuitive. It’s happening at a time when all legacy medium is losing value to advertisers. It is a constant battle to keep the worth of commercial inventory at a high level.

You can’t take your audience for granted. The choices available to them are plentiful. The technology exists today for talent to voice-track, produce “Best Of” programming, or appear live from a remote location versus being in a studio. There are too many entertainment & information choices today to allow inferior programming to go to air. There is no excuse for presenting a product that is viewed as inferior to what is your regular programming. This is especially true for News/Talk and Sports stations that “flip the switch” and take network programming this isn’t what normally airs at that time of day.

I can point to highly successful music programs that pre-record the night or day before a weekday holiday, to be able to present a fresh program that is specific to a day. There are talent that I coach on spoken word stations that I’ve witnessed take their remote gear with them on holidays to be able to deliver a live program during what would normally be a day off. Although voice-tracking has become an accepted substitute to being live, the talent still have to work hard to sound local and current with their content.

We know that people seek and scan on weekends and holidays as they look for variety. A large majority of employees, 68%, acknowledged working on holidays in a recent survey of 2,300 workers in the United States and Canada by the online learning platform ELVTR.  Those people working on Independence Day, because it was a weekday, likely matched their habitual listening patterns only to find that what they were hearing wasn’t what they normally hear. Listening habits are then disrupted.

This article, or rant if you will, isn’t about avoiding special programming for the holidays. This is about those stations that maintain a regular format on a holiday weekend, who upset the programming schedule by sweeping music without talent, presenting not-ready-for-primetime talent, pulling the daily personalities and plugging in a network (mainly on sports and news/talk stations), and possibly dropping newscasts from morning drive on the holiday itself. Radio continues to degrade the listening experience. These self-inflicted wounds are difficult to recover from … if ever.

Next holiday … do better.  Otherwise, why even try.

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