Radio Rules of Engagement Continue to Change, Mystify

373085301608719867327944687886nIf content is king then consistency is queen.  And in the world of radio, both concepts are being turned on their respective ears.  Just days after longtime WWJ Newsradio 950 evening anchor Paul Snider was forced to sign off for the final time after several decades behind the mic, Allyson Martinek of WDVD’s successful morning duo, “Blaine and Allyson,” was also jettisoned from the airwaves.

Anyone who has worked in the industry understands its competitive, often cutthroat nature.  Being on-the-air is not unlike being an actor – employed one day, unemployed the next.  In fact, when I was trying to make the transition to public relations some 20 years ago, a potential employer looked at my resume and called me a ‘gypsy.’ I quickly explained that that was the way it was in radio.  Once you secured a position, you started looking for your next.

It’s called “living and dying by the ratings.” Get good ratings, you’re fine. Don’t and you’re fired.  Or so it used to be.  According to the latest Nielson report (June 2015), the “Blaine and Allyson” Morning Show ranked #3 with Adults 25-54, trailing only WRIF and Channel 9-5-5’s “Mojo in the Morning” for the top spot.  So what gives?  The station hasn’t commented, leaving one to speculate that living and dying by the ratings sword has been replaced by bean counters as the radio axmen of the new era.

As I commented in Detroit News reporter Susan Whitall’s story this week, you don’t mess with success and certainly not with successful high-profile drivetime personalities.  Allyson has been with the Cumulus station for 20 years and was as integral a part of her morning show as anyone in town; a talented female voice on a station that skewed female in its listeners. Over at CBS, meanwhile, the fate of talented and longtime Afternoon Drive anchors Jayne Bower and Greg Bowman also hangs in the balance as they contemplate early retirement buyout offers.  Their program just missed the Top 10 in the latest ratings book.  They are the best at what they do.

Social media has been buzzing with discourse over the state of Detroit radio with many threatening to stop listening due to recent and pending changes in town.  Advertisers must be wondering what is going on as well, especially as the options for their dollars continue to grow.  Perhaps it is these two key groups – listeners and advertisers – that corporate radio suits will ultimately listen to should they continue to make their confusion and distaste known.  And one hopes traditional radio will take note. After all, what really differentiates its product from MP3s, online media and satellite radio if not top air personalities that we look to to deliver us live, local news, music and entertainment? If  the powers that be don’t understand that, then there’s too much static going on between the ears of too many key decision makers.