I’ve been reading Douglas Rushkoff’s latest book (Get Back In theBox: Innovation from the Inside Out) and was delighted to come across an interview with Rushkoff at Radio Marketing Nexus. Mark Ramsey talked with Rushkoff about “how to make radio relevant again.” Ruskoff misses the same things about radio that I do. AUDIO
“Because of my book tours I’ve been in a lot of radio stations, and even from 1995 to 2005 the amount of change I’ve seen has been shocking. There used to be this kind of quality to an FM radio station – I hate to be stereotypical, but there was a certain kind of chick who would be the receptionist at an FM radio station. There was a certain kind of guy that worked in the album room organizing the albums. There was a certain kind of geek figuring out the emphasis rack.
But FM stations are not really like that anymore. They feel much more like almost any other office, and if you didn’t see the control room you wouldn’t know you were in a radio station at all. They don’t ooze their culture anymore.
There was a smell and a quality and a texture to everything radio that I think was the fun of the industry. There was something so real about it. In the early days when I was a kid, you had Ron Lundy and Cousin Brucie – you just somehow knew those guys were there even though they were playing top 40 stuff. You knew it was a world of guys with records and personalities. And there’s so little of that on the radio today.
There’s almost nothing in mainstream radio that has that sense of this as a club of people in a cool place having a great time sharing some of their ecstasy with those of us driving to work or sitting in our bedrooms who wanted to have a taste of what it’s like to be an adult who understands music, who reads “Rolling Stone,” who understands why we’re fighting the Gulf War, or whatever it is. And I want to piece of that.
When I turn on the radio now I don’t feel that these folks have a piece of anything that I can’t get a piece of by going into Allstate to work in the morning. It’s just another working stiff with some computer telling them what to play and when to play it and when to read the ads.
I don’t trust the voice behind the music anymore because I don’t know that he’s really an expert or that he really cares. He’s not part of a living, breathing, fertile culture whereas if I go online and look at these Podcasts I know these people have done it not for the money but for the love of it. And radio is going to have to go a long way now to convince me that there’s somebody there who cares about what they’re doing for some reason other than the cash.
Finally, I would say the purpose of radio is to keep people company. And in order to keep people company there’s got to be a human being on the other side of it. The more truly human your radio station is the better it is at keeping people company. And the more computerized and business-like it is the farther outside the box you’ll find yourself.”
So there you have it. The pure, distilled essence of what’s wrong with radio today. And it seems like it would be very easy to fix. To get back in the box. But I fear we don’t even remember where we put the box.