Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.
Unlike most people, I read a LOT of radio industry trade publications. Most of them, just like this column was, are delivered via e-mail. I wish you could read some of this stuff. A few are truly unique like R.A.M.P. (Radio And Music Professionals) which is written in a creative manner that often makes fun of the silly press releases they get on a daily basis. In a recent issue when commenting on a format flip of a Tucson station from news-talk to country they wrote "the station will be trying a revolutionary new idea of playing 10,000 songs in a row." That technique has been used hundreds of times by dozens of stations nationwide. They further stated, "reach out to the new station by an amazing new technology called e-mail." I love it. Another trade, called Jockline Daily, targets morning DJ's and often includes actual video and/or audio links to stories they cover! Very cool.
It's rare to read any press release pertaining to the radio industry without seeing words like "thrilled" or "excited" or "legendary" or "iconic." A typical story might say "I am thrilled to be starting at the legendary (name of station), and excited to be working with an iconic program director like (insert name)." The words legendary and iconic are now overused as much as amazing and awesome once were. Newsflash! One more new word is about to be "worn out" and it's epic. Now, you'll start to notice its over-use.
Other popular phrases include format flip rather than a format change. Flipping has become very in vogue. When referring to another competing station in the same market most publications use the term crosstown like "this flip leaves crosstown WXXX as the only AC station in Balookaville." This is especially humorous when the two radio stations happen to be owned by the same company and are located in the same building, often just down the hall from each other! By the way AC (in radio) does not stand for air conditioning, or alternating current. It's adult contemporary music.
Recently an interesting quote came from well-known iconic Chicago radio personality Steve Dahl, who once worked here in Detroit on the one-time legendary WABX (99.5). He stated, "Radio died the day they started using the Personal People Meter (PPM)."
I actually applauded PPM as being infinitely better than the old system of gathering rating information for radio stations. PPM electronically hears and measures everything you are listening to. The prior method relied on people's memory to write down which stations they listened to. The only problem is that PPM tends to track long-term listening, like in the work place, where the preferred fare is lots of music and little or no talking. Many of us in the radio industry are convinced that it is why PPM is killing personality radio, where entertainment is the key ingredient. Dahl made the statement because his show, while on terrestrial radio, played NO music, it was only talk. He now does an Internet podcast via a paid subscription and still plays no music. He has a huge number of people who pay to hear him talk. Interestingly, Dahl celebrated 35 years on Chicago radio February 23rd. I've always said that people will PAY for what they want, which explains the success satellite radio is currently enjoying.
Speaking of personality radio, there was surely an abundance of marquee names on hand for the 26th Salvation Army Radiothon on February 22nd at the Oakland Mall in Troy. This event began when Dick Purtan called a meeting in 1988 and said "let's do a Radiothon for a charitable organization", and The Salvation Army was selected.
Purtan's longtime producer and writer, Gene Taylor, got heavily involved and joined the Salvation Army and helped make it a successful annual event. It stayed on that station even after it's identity was "flipped" to WKQI (Q-95), it's now Channel 9-5-5. When the Dickster segued over to WOMC the event moved out of the studio and into the mall, but Purtan was always the main attraction of the event. After he retired in March of 2010, WOMC didn't want to do it anymore so it shifted over to WJR AM. After a year of absence in 2011, Purtan returned as a special guest star in 2012 and again this year, but, with a sluggish economy and a glut of other fund-raisers, this year the final tote was about $400,000 less than the previous year. All of that withstanding, the bottom line was still an impressive $1,364,122. Not too shabby.
One of the many highlights was WJR's Frank Beckmann (pictured on the left with new WJR Program Director Kevin Metheny to his right) submitting to having his head shaved after $10,000 in pledges. Remembering how fastidious the 33 year voice of the Michigan Wolverines is about his hair in years of having his photo on those annual WJR RADIOGUIDES, I was personally stunned by his adaptation of the Mr. Clean look. The last few months have seen many stations locally asking for your donation; WYCD is the home of the St. Jude Drive, WWJ with its efforts for T.H.A.W., and WOMC now tied in with Gleaners Food Drive just to mention a few. The metro Detroit area is known for its generosity, but with so many events asking for your support, it's understandable how goals are more difficult to attain. Finally hats off to Dave Scott and his crew from Woodward One digital for the outstanding job in video streaming the WJR Radiothon on the Internet. He will be at it again on March 15th for Paul W. Smith's annual St. Patrick's Day Party from the D.A.C. So, in case your invitation gets lost in the mail, you can attend on-line!
WWJ NewsRadio 950 is set to welcome a new morning anchor who will join the legendary Roberta Jasina, Tom Jordan from KUSI-TV 51 in San Diego. Who is the brilliant sales person that convinced him to leave "America's Finest City" to come here for a 3 a.m. wake-up call? WWJ boss Pete Kowalski better place a TV camera in their new studio so Mr. Jordan will feel comfortable in our wonderful picture-free medium.
On a personal note, I just got a Slingbox, a device which allows me the ability to watch any program that's on my home DVR and even record shows all by remote control on my iPad from anywhere in the world where I can get an Internet connection! I'm certain that I will be thrilled with its capabilities. I'm excited to see how it works and will give you a full report soon in this space. Such technology is absolutely epic. Thanks for your valuable time to better understand "Words," and I'm not talking about the song by that iconic group known as The Bee Gee's. Meanwhile keep the radio on, because the Bee Gee's might be coming up next!
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org