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The Real Truth About A.I., Expectations & Local Radio Now

What happens if radio lowers the expectation bar again with listeners? 

Nothing good. Over the last thirty years, major broadcast companies have purposefully cut corners and reduced workforce to reach magic ‘economies of scale.’ They’ve done so largely making radio sound like radio in every market, but then across time many of their brands have “declined by 1,000 cuts.”

This is often thought about outside the line of fire as an acceptable loss of quality.

The next opportunity is artificial intelligence. The question is: What will you do?

Don’t get me wrong. We know that tech advances are not the issue here. Decisions radio companies make are the issues. How we use technology and the quality behind how our product is produced, our advertising and our sellers’ performance with clients and potential clients are all critical.


The Auto-Pilot Expressway

Voice tracking has done nothing to destroy radio. Voice Tracking made it possible to use your creativity and make radio…..more. The decisions made about how voice tracking has been executed have made radio more inconsistent and less focused on details in the product. This lowered expectations of audience (and that is never good).

Still, it became popular for people to use the label “Live & Local,” but even that was misunderstood to be the singular ingredient that made radio great. It isn’t. Being highly relational to important local tribes is a critical part of any successful “Live & Local” philosophy.

Artificial intelligence won’t be to blame if it all goes south again either. 

Why do I say this?

Radio companies lowered the bar by falling in love with bigger and more greedy deals and creating cost savings to try to rebalance their books to “afford the business.” This resulted in lower expectations with the way they executed the use of voice tracking.  The lack of proper oversight and the reduction of quality control in programming departments resulted in a poor outcome for listeners, advertisers and community. Less time, fewer employees and voice trackers spread over too many stations resulted in rushed “phoned in” on-air work. 

Some of the major broadcast companies eliminated all external advice voices and became hostage to a small group of bean counters who focused on efficiency over core product values, including brand. Just as “Live & Local” isn’t the only ingredient in successful radio, being efficient doesn’t help you achieve if what you are actually doing is wrong. It only speeds up disaster.

Expectations significantly lowered.

Brands became more like commodities. If you’re honest, some of the best brands in radio became commodities.

The lowering of listener expectation is always a product value killer.

Eventually, many just abandoned having even voice trackers on shifts outside of 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Expectations lowered significantly again.

Like the answer to the question about radio possibly dying that seemed to start with that song “Video Killed The Radio Star,” radio still didn’t die, but let’s say every time you lower listener and community expectations, it’s not good.

It results in little deaths that add up across time.


Will We Lower The Bar Yet Again?

Consider that we sit on the edge of these new fast-moving technologies that will impact jobs in all sectors; of course, it will impact radio. Don’t be silly. The question isn’t about jobs or A.I. The question real question you should be asking yourself is about quality, attention to product and focus on brand-building.

I want you to hear me please: It isn’t “Live & Local” that will save radio by itself. It never has been. We must connect, reflect and relate to important local audience to keep our brands humming. Brand value doesn’t come only from being present; it comes from growing value and influence for your audience and advertisers.

And scale and efficiency won’t save big radio companies if they are efficient doing the wrong things that listeners don’t care about today.

Wrong is then just wrong faster.

You won’t be able to continue to force listeners to put up with you.

Radio does get power from being local, but we must be highly relational to make that impactful.

Relationships between consumers (listeners) and brands are actually TRUST.

Trust is worth a PREMIUM. Trust is brand.

Commodities are a dime a dozen.

They are throw away and WILL pass away. Mark my words.


Consequences Of 21st Century Time Begins Impacting Local Radio; Time To Act

  1. Redefine voice tracking to focus on quality of content.
  2. Eliminate radio stations in a box with no personalities outside of 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  3. Return to strategic planning so that individual radio brands can once again have real purpose.
  4. Reverse course to create more attention-getting promotions and “opportunities” that go way beyond “treading water” and begin to invest in external attention again before it is too late. Local radio should be excellent relational experiences. Not lowering expectations and powering down. In your heart, you know this is true.
  5. Self-educate on the proper uses of artificial intelligence, including voice, so that local radio brands receive the correct quality oversight and the product improves. A.I. is just a tool. It’s how you use it that will make the difference for good or for bad.

If something kills radio, it is most likely to be radio. If you own or manage a local radio station, you can do something to make sure that doesn’t happen and it WILL positively impact your revenue.

If you haven’t heard radio consultants Mike McVay, Loyd Ford and Fred Jacobs in a round table about “Chat GPT & The A.I. Century” on our podcast, check it out here.

Please consider the real value of your local radio brand or brands as directly being the quality of your:

— Strategy

— Process

Relational personalities and content

— The attention-generating quality of your promotions and external marketing

— How you value your customers (advertisers) and community


This isn’t a time to blow it, skip some steps or huddle-up alone with your problems. If you need help, reach out.  You can get affordable help and focus your business toward growth. If you don’t know where, start with us. Growth is what we do at RPC.


What You Expect Vs. What You Get

Welcome to our website for RPC. We offer you a wide variety of free content on our site because we want you to get to know how we think and how much we believe in local radio in the 21st Century. The more you learn about us, the more we know you’ll want to learn what we give our clients access to (and we can give you a hint: “Ideas are the new technology“).

We literally believe that “once you have a radio station, you can get anything else you want.”