Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.
It's been almost a month since I was lucky enough to attend The Radio Show which is present by the RAB and NAB (Radio Advertising Bureau and National Association of Broadcasters) and I've been anxious to report back to you about what I saw, heard and experienced ever since.
Attendance, according to the powers to be, was flat or slightly above 2013. It was the first radio convention of this sort which was actually held at a convention center rather than a hotel. The site was Indianapolis, and the Indiana Convention Center. Indy is a very misunderstood city. It is no longer a cow town with a race track. Radio broadcasters now know this, and my guess is that about half of the attendees had never been to The Circle City before. I found out that the primary reason for this destination was that this year marked the 25th anniversary of the Marconi Awards, which is radio's Emmy or Oscars. The man who originally suggested that radio deserved an awards ceremony is Jeff Smulyan, CEO of Emmis Communications, an Indianapolis-based media company. Makes sense.
Several SE Michigan stations and personalities were nominated, including: Jim (JJ) Johnson of WOMC, Dr. Don with Rachael & Grunwald from WYCD, WSPD at Plymouth-Salem High School, WLEN in Adrian, and WXYT-FM Detroit (in two categories) but sadly NONE of them walked away with an award. One of biggest disappointments of the this first class event was that Indianapolis-based Bob & Tom lost out to Rush Limbaugh for Network and Syndicated Personality of the Year...like he needed another award. Bob & Tom were also the only nominees in that category who were actually in the room, and they had to do a morning radio show the next day! Interestingly, those guys actually met at an establishment known as The Bar Harbor up in Harbor Springs, MI.
The big surprise at the 2014 Radio Show was the element of honesty. Usually we hear about how 94% of people listen to radio every day and things are peachy-keen and these are the best of times, etc. This year a riveting keynote by advertising luminary Bob Hoffman of the Type A Group told a packed house that radio needs to stop ignoring the fastest growing demographic, those over 50. Sound familiar? I've also been preaching this for years and often in this column.
The 50+ crowd has the money, and most importantly, has the time to spend it. Radio has to end all of the B.S. and he used the actually word repeatedly. It was a real wake-up call...and it was honest, truthful and needed to be said.
The next morning Marci Ryvicker of Wells Fargo Securities outlined the business forecast for radio and she minced no words in telling the truth. Changes need to be made or the next generation will not even know what radio is. AM radio is already unknown to most of those under 35, and FM is now being challenged by Internet radio, satellite radio and any number of electronic devices cutting a slice into the media pie. A personal high point for me was getting to meet former Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mullally. He was interviewed at the convention by ABC newsman Dan Harris.
Michigan Wolverines fans, don't forget that it is now safe to once again bring your small portable AM/FM radio into The Big House. The university has struck a deal with Ann Arbor's 10,000 watt local station WTKA-AM (1050) to run the games without that annoying 7 to 10 second delay. Spread the word to those who sit in the stadium that you can now hear Brandstatter and Dierdorf with perfect sync to the action on the field.
Speaking of action on the field, have you ever seen a media circus and feeding frenzy like what television has managed to create over the scandal in Ann Arbor? Mitch Albom said it best on WJR, "If this game had been broadcast only on radio it would be a non-issue."
My estimate is that the hit on Michigan quarterback Shane Morris has been played in excess of 100 times just on TV alone. The tube has a real talent for being able to create its own news and insight a riot as evidenced by the throngs of students who marched to the newly appointed president of the U of M's house. The only thing missing were the pitchforks and torches. They were demanding the firing of Athletic Director Dave Brandon. I don't know about you, but personally I've seen much harder hits during the 35 years that I have been covering Michigan football. Could the lack of game victories be at the root of all this?
While on the topic of the Maize and Blue, the Rutgers game from New Jersey Saturday night on 10-4 (good buddy) will run on 97.1 FM The Ticket as well as WWJ-AM (950) since the Tigers will not be playing on that day. Depending on how the baseball playoffs go, the following week, on October 11th, the Penn State night game in Ann Arbor could also be on 97.1 FM. WWJ at night in Ann Arbor is almost unlistenable and WTKA drops down to just 500 watts! Reports say that WWWW-FM at 102.9 FM in Ann Arbor will also have the game on the static-free band.
Is it just me or are the commercials before and after the traffic reports on WJR longer than the actual traffic reports? Plus the other day I heard Mitzi Miles doing traffic. Add in Kevin O'Neill, Mark Mitchell and others and you've got a plethora of great personalities just doing traffic reports.
The DASH Conference is coming to town by mid-October with the latest reports on "The Connected Car" and the new look to vehicle dashboards. I hope to be there and report back to you all of the insightful developments coming into our cars!
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org