It's been a long time since I wrote to you in this blog and I do apologize for that. The best I can offer is that 1.) if you help run a family-owned radio station, you work 60 hours a week on it. That's really the only way that it moves forward. And at the end of the day you really don't have the time to laze about and write about nothing.
And 2.) I don't know where this blog is headed. I really do want to chronicle the long, sweet goodbye of local radio. That's an overriding theme for me. I grew up during the heavy decline and near death of the local steel industry. I traded in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade during the heyday and then during the beginning of the end, so I know what it's like when a way of communicating and doing business dies. I just wish I had taken more notes, written a blog... something. It died slowly and I started to feel it in the late 90s and by 2004 I was certain that the end was near. It was. Instead of sticking around for the goodbye hugs and drinks, I left trading completely. My wife and I bought a radio station (and a newspaper, if you remember correctly).
But it is not only the slow and steady decline of radio that interests me. It's what happens next, which is where I'm most confused. Alexis and I just took my daughter on a vacation for her college graduation. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale and then drove to Key West for a few days. That's the cheapest way to do it, by the way. And true to form for a good portion of the vacation I thought about radio. And every time we went somewhere I listened for how the music or other audio was being delivered. Only a few times did I hear traditional local radio.
One was in the workout room of the Bahia Mar Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. The trainer who led rich wives through stretching and medicine ball exercises liked to listen to the Miami-based smart aleck guys on the hip music station. While I was in there one morning the jocks called a guy live and outed him as having had a gay affair with some other dude.
"I don't know who this is but I'm going to sue your station for libel and slander." Sounded staged. But it did have the dramatic shock effect that got the head trainer of the workout room at Bahia Mar Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to listen to their FM station.
The other time I heard local radio was on a boat. Alexis and I and Jeanie and her boyfriend Daniel took a "Danger EcoCruise" out into the gulf. Snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and a whole bunch of talk about the animals and plants and coral and you get the picture. I'm still a little sore from pumping on the sea kayak into a 30 mile an hour wind for the better part of a mile. Also got some really good GoPro footage of blue and yellow and pink fish and some pretty neat coral configurations and I will use that in an upcoming project. You'll see.
On the way back in to port, the captain put on the radio. While we had been out filming and kayaking and such, Alexis and a couple of other women and what looked like a couple of gay men stayed behind on the boat. They wanted what the captain called "make out" music, which my wife actually described to me as a Jack Johnson mix on internet radio. Captain Evan wanted something with a little more kick, so he put the country station out of Miami on the speakers for the ride in. Traditional local radio brought about by a boat captain singing along to modern Kenny Chesney while he twirled the wheel. He wore a ton of white cream on his nose and a salt-worn Atlanta Braves hat.
Oh, there was a third time that I heard some traditional local radio. That was at the pool at the La Concha hotel in Key West. For most of the day it was an all-ages internet-fed mix of different music that could play while you read the latest Grisham novel or paged through a People magazine. And drank pina coladas. But near the end of the day the bartender had to wash all the glasses, clean all the counters, flush the lines, pick up empties and so forth. The La Concha has ridiculously small rooms, so while Alexis prepped for dinner I went down to the pool and just kinda sat there, thinking about radio.
The pool slowly emptied of sunburnt insurance salesmen from Philly and sunburnt Germans, Israelis, Pakistanis and foreigners from Miami. So I got to sit there with an empty pool and... Mix 104.9 on the radio. Since most everyone one had left, the bartender had switched to his favorite radio station - the local high-energy rock and pop station. I kinda liked it. A little too much Taylor Swift but the station imaging is solid and they don't over talk on the music.
So there. Three times I heard traditional radio on the trip. We didn't even listen to traditional radio in the rented Ford Fusion. After some initial struggle, Jeanie synched her iPhone to the car stereo and we listened to either Pandora or to serial podcasts. If you don't know what serial podcasts are, then you don't know the future of radio.
To circle back. I really do apologize for not writing this blog for a while. It still boils down to that I am confused by at least two things - the purpose of this blog and the future of radio. I don't have a clue about either.
As to why write this blog.... I get this feeling that if I just write enough we'll approach a purpose. Or maybe if I write enough words they'll all jumble together to make us both realize that there isn't any real purpose but just some reasonable entertainment in my of observations, opinions, callers, listeners, sponsors, guests, producers, fans (yes, fans) and America in general. An Alexander de Tocqueville who lives here and isn't French.
But as to chronicling the long, sweet goodbye of traditional radio.... I'm a little confused about that too. We all know the numbers. Traditional radio loses about 6% total listening hours a year. And according to some recent hints from the Radio Convergence people, some stations are losing as much as 30-40% of their revenue, year over year, as buyers switch money to digital. I get all of that and am preparing for the changeover also... but I'm still quite confused about what's really happening. And when I sit down to write to you about what's happening in my life and my area and my radio, it's all happening so fast that I feel as if a big wave on Ft. Lauderdale Beach sweeps me off my feet. As I twirl around in the primordial saltiness as if in a washing machine, I lose my pen. That's the best I can explain it.