It’s Thursday, Must Be Radio: Lunch with Harve

This is Thursday, a day that holds a special place in
any radio guy’s heart. You see, this is the day that the Arbitron ratings diaries
kicked in. For those people that have committed to keeping a diary (and earning
a dollar doing it), this is the day the survey week begins. This day and its
importance to radio and the way it’s programmed have always been debated. But
most still consider this a very important day when it comes to ratings. For
that reason, I will spend my Thursdays posting about radio. (Sorry, no money
involved.)

Today I had the chance to enjoy lunch with one of radio’s most
respected programmers. Harve Alan whose career has included many high profile programming
positions in multiple markets, as well as VP positions for many successful
companies, is highly regarded not only by me but the industry as a whole. ( I
have even more regard for him because he picked up the tab!)

Harve recently parted company with Next Media after a brief
stint as the VP of Programming. He is now officially hanging out the shingle as
a Broadcast Consultant. I’ve always enjoyed talking with Harve and he has never
been at a loss for opinions. You can check out his blog at Harve Alan Media
when you get a chance.

We talked about everything from HD to the overall health of
radio as we know it. We both agreed that 2008 promises to be an interesting
year.

Harve’s challenge to radio? Develop great entertaining content!
I know, we’ve heard it before. However, as of late “great entertaining content”
has translated into, “Shut up and play the music.” That’s a recipe for
disaster. Harve’s thought, and I’m paraphrasing, “Three will always be a place
for the “lite” music stations of the world (those that play “lite rock and less
talk”) because that’s what the “older” audience is looking for. For the younger
audience, they want great personality.” That doesn’t mean more talk. That means
personality even on music stations. I would agree. Those in radio that think
that we will be able to compete for the ears of those under 50 with nothing but
music will witness steadily falling numbers and dollars.

Another part of our discussion centered on hyper-targeting ourselves
to death. Look, radio has formats targeted to specific demographics. That’s
what needs to be done because you can’t please everyone. At the same time, part
of your branding can’t result in excluding other secondary audiences. Harve and I talked about a station we both are familiar with that is so exclusive
to “conservative” listeners it drives away anyone that even looks moderate, let
alone liberal. His point…be a talk station that appeals to conservatives, not a
conservative talk station.

I was also anxious to find out what will make his new
consultancy different from the others out there. His
response, he’s not afraid of new thinking. I think the phrase was “fresh ideas mixed with calculated risk
taking, aggressive interpretation, and implementation of sound strategies”. In
a nutshell, take a few chances while executing the strategies that work. I hope
it happens. There are not a lot of chances being taken in radio these days. Unless,
of course, you count staying low enough to get through the next quarter without
losing your job.