Are Personalities Important in Radio Today?
I must admit, that I miss the great radio personalities! And I often ponder the question of will radio ever again produce the likes of a Larry Lujack, a Don Imus, a Rick Dees, a Dick Purtan, or a Bill Bailey? Radio personalities who knew how to entertain their audiences and worked extremely hard at making their programs relevant, day in and day out. Personalities, who produced humor pieces that would make you laugh so hard, that you considered pulling your car out of traffic to avoid causing a mishap.
My thoughts are that many of our music stations have abandoned the entertainment factor totally. Instead, the on-air folks are told to basically just promote the artists and the call letters. Why so much promoting? Can't most listeners tell you where their favorite station, or stations are located on a car radio? Or, on their computer device? Or, how to receive them on their mobile device? Let me also establish that I used to manage music radio stations, and I too, preached that the 'music' was the star of our station. But, I was also always trying to figure out how I could discover the next really good personality for my morning show, or another key program. I saw it as a way to build audience loyalty to my station. And of course, humor is not the only element crucial in establishing a one on one bond with the listener. Coming up with unique listener contests(that are fun!!!), providing consistent key bits of information,(extended weekend weather warnings), a special appearance by a core artist on the station, are all ways to stand-out. It seems that many of today's personalities do the same humor bits/news, talking about the same Hollywood folks who are all over the internet. Where's the creativity in that? I remember an accomplished program director in a major market sharing with me years ago. He said, " there are a couple of other radio stations in this market playing the same playlist of songs, (as my station), and doing a good job of presenting them. But, I have the only Larry Lujack in this market. And that is why I beat my competitors."
In this day where music really grows on all kinds of media(trees)platforms. And a person can totally build their own playlist of favorite songs on multiple devices. Should radio be seeking air people who will truly make the station stand-out? AND...radio remains FREE, and easily accessible . I got a feeling that someday in the not so distant future, radio just might return to its personality roots.
John Irwin is a former radio personality, and radio station General Manager/VP in Denver, Boston & NYC. Now retired and living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is currently building a media platform to promote the unique food scene in Santa Fe.