Why Radio Stations Fail | radioinfo

Why Radio Stations Fail

Sunday 27 September, 2020

Content from BPR

It’s heartbreaking for a programming team to put an extraordinary amount of hard work into a station only to be the cellar dweller survey after survey.

It’s equally soul destroying to have a once great radio station fall from the dizzying heights of market leader to being absolute last.

Now, there are some specific reasons why radio stations fail to attract an audience or lose an audience they once had. There are certain things that they seem to overlook, ignore or push aside, all the while leading them on the path to becoming just another sad piece of radio history.

This list is certainly not finite….. I’m sure there are many other reasons we could include but these are the main ones that I’ve witnessed time and time again that are common in a variety of markets.

  1. Lack of strategic planning. The first step involves defining the target audience and that is dependent on the individual characteristics of each market. Once you know which group of listeners you want to attract you then uncover what they want from their favourite radio station, whether those needs are currently being serviced, by whom and how well. For a music station, its also asking the listeners what they want to hear…. firstly the overall genres of music (a Music Map study) and then the appeal of the individual songs. Without strategic planning you’re relying on guesswork and this means that you’re probably not in touch with your audience.


  1. Poor execution of a great strategy. We’ve all heard it…..that badly crafted music log – individually, the songs are good but there’s clumping of genres and tempo….the Morning Show that has the ability but lacks direction….the tactic that is too convoluted for the listeners to even bother to understand.


  1. No USP. This should be part of the strategic planning process. However, many programmers THINK they can go into battle with an incumbent station with a virtually identical format because “I can do it better”. Perhaps you can, but if the listeners don’t hear a HUGE difference between their current station and yours…..why would they leave that station?


  1. Talent……or lack of. Again with reference to the preceding paragraph, in many instances in crowded markets, your talent will be your only USP. Even in less competitive markets, if you’re in a personality battle and your talent is only average then you will have a problem getting any market traction. If your position is “more music, less talk” then your talent MUST adhere to this rigidly. If their talk breaks are too long and not entertaining…. because they like hearing the sound of their own voice…then they are average talent. And this leads me to #5.


  1. Failure to adhere to your brand promise. I’ve covered this in another article “Are You Keeping Your Brand Promise”. Listener loyalty begins with trust……. they believe you will do what you say you’ll do. If you’re the More Music station, then you better be playing more music per hour than every other station in the market…. otherwise, you’re breaking your promise. If your position is Great Classic Rock, then you had better be playing the GREAT classic rock songs…. the ones your target audience loves.


  1. Lack of discipline. A lack of discipline will not only prevent a station from being successful but it can also cause a successful station to drift dangerously off course. Often all the hard work and strategic thinking that initially went into creating what became a #1 radio station can, over the years, be diluted through a lack of discipline or complacency……that song on air that doesn’t test that well with the audience, “but hey I’m the PD of the #1 station and I like it!”…..that annual contest that goes to air every year in the same way with the same mechanic to the point the listeners think you’ve become too predictable……the Morning Show that has lost its spark but being #1 “don’t need to be told how to do their job”. When a new and direct competitor appears in the market, the incumbent market leading station should attack itself…. look for weaknesses in the product and, where possible, fix them immediately. Always remember the strict disciplines that made you successful in the first place.


  1. Failure to communicate value propositions clearly. You must tell that listeners what your station is all about…. the essence…..in a clear, concise and compelling manner. Too often, the exact opposite occurs and the audience just doesn’t get what you stand for.


  1. Failure to keep abreast of changes in the listeners’ tastes. The strategic plan must continually evolve. Listeners tastes change over time….. Zapoleon’s Music Cycles is one great example. COVID-19 has meant that news and information categories are now more important programming priorities than they were a few years ago. Ongoing market research is the only way for a station to get to the top and remain there.


There are others which I won’t elaborate on but include a change in leadership (the new boss wants to “tweak” the brand to prove its now his baby), technology has passed you by (think AM music stations in major markets), pressure on revenue results in poor programming decisions, loss of key talent to a competitor etc.

The majority of the above can be avoided……plan strategically, execute with precision, think objectively and continually ask your listeners for their opinions.



David Kidd





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28 September 2020 - 10:29am
"technology has passed you by (think AM music stations in major markets"
This is very true.
The industry should in capital cities push DAB+ and not streaming because it is cheaper than AM/FM broadcasting and providing streaming.
We have been broadcasting DAB+ for 11 years. It's about time a switchoff date of AM/FM in those areas be set. Look at ratings in Norway which switched off AM/FM. It is broadcast DAB+ which is accelerating listening and it is not coming from streaming.

Country areas should be pushing for Digital Radio Mondiale using the vacant analog TV channels 0 - 2. It covers much larger areas than DAB+. It will allow country commercial stations to transmit their two programs on a single transmitter close to their prime audience and have enough data capacity for images and even an electronic newspaper. For the ABC/SBS they could radiate their 18 programs also from another single transmitter per site.

Integrated circuit manufacturers already make chips which can receive DAB+/DRM/FM and AM. They just need broadcasters to adopt new standards and promote them. Look at 1300 million Indians have large scale high power DRM and millions of new cars with factory fitted DRM radios.

The use of DAB+ & DAB+ not only reduces capital expenditure the electricity consumption will drop by much more than 60 % and that will cause a similar drop in Carbon Dioxide production in power stations.

Remember that AM was invented in 1910 and FM in 1935. DRM is the latest technology (2009). Who is using an Windows computer with version 3.1 software which was the first to use the mouse. The software/computer companies made all users upgrade. Radio must do the same, as Norway did.
Anthony The Koala
29 September 2020 - 9:35am
The switchoff of FM radio in Norway is not complete. The NRK and the major commercial networks have switched off. There are some commercial FM services which have until 2022 to comply with the law, source, https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/norways-fm-shutdown-six-months-later .

Given that ABC's AM and FM transmitters produce the highest level of CO2 compared to other broadcasters, it should, like its Norwegian equivalent NRK consider a transition to fully digital services, whether AM or FM. Where the metropolitan AM and DAB+ service diverge in service for sporting and talking respectively, it would be simple to use either the existing "Grandstand" DAB+ channel or allocate a mono talk channel for sporting matches.

At the same time, not all countries have adopted DAB+. Though some have 'plans' to cease analogue transmissions and adopt DAB+., that is not 'concrete'. Even some countries such as NZ, HK, Finland have abandoned and not proceeded with DAB+. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Audio_Broadcasting - the bottom of the article. Though RNZ's overseas service transmit in DRM+ https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/listen .

Streaming IP radio is another way of consuming media. With an increase in the uptake of 5G mobile services, initially the transmission rates will be extremely fast especially if one lives near a 5G transmission tower. My concern is that with an increased uptake of 5G and an increasing use of consuming media via 5G, consumers may be disappointed. This is because 5G uses RF while IP conveyed via fibre optic is limited by the electronic interfaces between the laser transmitter and laser receiver. There is no guarantee that IP via RF will be maintain the high bit rates initially promoted to consumers at the beginning of the uptake of 5G as a mode of receiving IP streams.

As an aside, NEP, the provider of OB services for up to 4K video transmission uses IP with data rates in the order of gigabits, https://www.nepgroup.com.au/services/centralised-production. I doubt that they'll be using 5G.

In conclusion, there appears to be no plans by broadcasters to switch over to fully digital radio whether DAB+ or DRM+ despite their adoption by Norway and India. Other countries have no firm plans.

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting Belfield
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