Written Jan. 12, 2010 by Sean Ross in with 6 Comments
The announcements broke within a few minutes of each other on Monday, Jan. 4. Classic Rock WCSX Detroit was replacing its high-profile morning team of the last year, Deminski & Doyle, with a more music intensive morning show. Similarly formatted KGB San Diego was parting ways with its longtime morning show, "Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw"--the third such change in Clear Channel's San Diego cluster in recent months.
By then, only the timing of the announcements was remarkable. The departure of high-profile talent became a regular occurrence in 2009 -- Steve Dahl and Jonathon Brandmeier in Chicago; Don Geronimo in D.C., Jeff & Jer--a team that had never left without announcing a new station before--at KGB's Hot AC sister KMYI; the syndicated Michael Baisden being taken off afternoons at Urban AC WMXD Detroit (although continuing more happily elsewhere).
Stations' financial travails, combined with the realization that some high-profile talent didn't perform as well in PPM as in the diary measurement era, were usually explanation enough for most people. Urban radio was particularly shaken -- after years of reshaping itself as a full-service personality format, stations were told to become a music utility again, although doing so hardly seemed to solve all their PPM issues.
Since last Monday, it seems likely that any managers who hadn't already been huddling on the place of high-profile talent on their radio stations have been prompted to do so. If your discussions are ongoing, here are a few things to consider:
1) With or without PPM, budget related personnel changes would be taking place anyway right now. It's the first of the year.
2) Budget considerations are still steering some managers toward more personality -- e.g., those who bring in Ryan Seacrest, John Tesh, or other more-content shows.
3) PPM hasn't proven a disinterest in high-profile personality--ask Elvis Duran, Preston & Steve, Seacrest, etc. If anything, it has disproven the adage that no format is a music utility strong enough to survive without a high-profile morning show.
And without saying this is the case in any of the above mentioned situations, it is easy to imagine any decision about a high-profile personality being informed by a decade of management vs. labor back-and-forth. Why have yet another difficult 10 a.m. conversation with your morning show? They're no longer worth fighting with. Just move on.
To some extent, of course, managers exacerbated their own struggles. Three years ago, the enlightened approach to the 10 a.m. conversation was just to decide that your morning show was right -- their compelling content was way more important than your dumb ol' six records an hour anyway. People could get their music anywhere. And with the knowledge that this isn't always /em> true, programmers aren't sure how to create a middle ground.
Offering companionship to listeners and still playing more music was in most programmers' skill-sets in the era long before people talked about their skill-sets. It was discredited in the Howard Stern era. In many cases, managers are going to view talent as an all or nothing issue. But finding the right balance will be the next breakthrough, even if some stations find it easier to throw their hands up and move on.