Christmas Eve, sitting in a supermarket parking lot in West Palm Beach, FL.
While waiting for the wife to obtain a few last-minute items, I switched to the AM band and pressed the “Scan” button on the radio. The digital dial spun like a slot machine display and ended up at 1000.
My ears were treated to a very unusual format. Instead of talk, music, sports, weather, or some other mundane format, I heard: “is-is-is-is-is-is…”
It was obvious that the station’s automation system had locked up. The audio source—whatever it might have been—was repeatedly sampling the word “is”, perhaps as a holiday tribute to President Clinton’s infamous quote about the meaning of “is”.
I checked back from time to time to find out how long—if ever—it took for someone…anyone at the station to realize there was a problem. I gave up after two hours.
The obvious conclusion: this station was part of a group and the attention was being given to the “important” stations, namely the FM outlets. The AM was automated, unattended, and ignored.
Unfortunately, this condition obtains in a lot of companies in a lot of markets. The idea behind consolidation was to maximize revenues while minimizing expenses and resources. In theory, all the stations benefit. But experience shows that when multiple stations are added to the same cluster, 100% of effort cannot be allocated to each one. A five-station cluster means each station garners an average attention of 20%. Providing more attention to one means the others will suffer. This is not the way it is supposed to work—but in the real world things often don’t work out as intended.
The bottom line: if Radio people don’t pay attention to all of their stations, don’t be surprised when listeners don’t pay attention, either.