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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

Radio is losing its intelligence (part II)

In part I, I stated that "radio has lost its intelligence", with commercial music radio being the main culprit and also because there's a general dearth of quality management to develop the talent pool. I've written and taught a lot on some of the finer aspects of engaging the listener so, in part II here, indulge me as I mention a few.
  • Preparation

    I can hear that 99% of all shows has absolutely no preparation. It should start the moment a presenter gets up from the last show to when she or he starts the next one. Stretch, have a cup of coffee and start observing life as your target market understands it. Then give us an interesting, sensible and nimble report back tomorrow. We don't expect cerebral pontifications, just enough to get the picture.

    Prep is vital to give yourself a framework for each hour, so that all the other spontaneous ad libs sound spontaneous or spur-of-the-moment. To me, lack of preparation is an insult to the listener and the boss.

  • Engaging the brain before the microphone

    This used to be a fundamental so that you are aware of what you are going to say. Even the best have had to be reminded of that from time to time. Nowadays, the red light goes on and it's a time to start thinking. NO, people... do that on your time.

  • Economy of words

    KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. The listener has a multitude of stuff competing for his attention so, if you wander off all over the place, he will remember nothing. If it's compact, in normal everyday speech (not DJ speak), and easy to imagine, he will hear it all. Make it easy for him to take a piece of you with him, as opposed to wondering what the hell you were talking about.

    At the various stations I have run or consulted for, I have tried to get across a simple fact when I'm engaging a presenter: the less sh*t you talk, the better. If you can cut 10 or 20 seconds off your average speech link, let's multiply that by six links per hour by three hours a day by five days a week by fifty-two weeks a year - you can get in extra classic songs or some intelligent thought.

  • Being yourself

    Just be who you are without adopting a new persona because it's YOUR finger that presses the microphone button. Admire a presenter who you like but don't copy them! Discover what it is that you may respect or think highly of, but interpret it in your own way. If a friend ever tells you that you don't sound anything like you do on air, then you are in big trouble.

  • Becoming a friend

    Find out what the listener is all about. This can be located in the multitude of demographic, psychographic and qualitative research available to you. Problem is you weren't listening or taking notes at the last research presentation or felt "that doesn't apply to me..."!

  • Mutual companionship

    The radio station in its wisdom has appointed you to speak to its market. Go out of your way to establish a relationship with your listener so that she can call you a pal. A relationship with the news reader is not quite the same thing. In the clutter of everything else, you could be the only friend she has.
There are many more essential tips, some scientific and some gut feel, in The Book. But The Book has been lost!

You have to wonder if programme managers actually listen to their on-air presenters before they tell us how good they are. If they do and they all sound so uninspiring, they should be worried.

Why am I bringing this up? Because right now it is critical to get back to the basics.

Slept through the real issues

With every new audio invention, radio has been put on a death notice. But, at this time of media development and diversity, radio is once again under threat because the "media owners" have slept through the real issues.

I was there when they totally overacted to new media in the first place. The excitement and bewilderment of the web and other stuff led to confusion and the ball, which was the core business of communicating "now", was dropped. Get used to the idea that Time Spent Listening will never be as big again as it was; loyalty will depend on consistency so arrest the declines by making every second count.

Radio is now a part of the entertainment experience and not the be-all and end-all, as it was way back when. Better make it extra special and entertaining so that the listener gets it and feels it in the larger mix.

Almost everything else available in modern media has been recorded and placed in a schedule for you to download and listen at your pleasure. But radio is right there for you, anytime, anywhere and in real time. You don't have to find a USB port to plug in anywhere; you just switch on.

Biggest selling point

It's about time to return to the biggest selling point radio will always have - immediacy. I have my doubts, however, that our radio whiz kids know exactly what an advantage that is!

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About Anthony Duke

Anthony Duke co-founded Capital Radio in 1979, managed 5FM, Good Hope FM and did strategies for all SABC Radio stations as manager of radio training at the corporation. Today he is retired but still consults. Email him at and connect on LinkedIn.
Deshen Naidu
Brilliant article Anthony Duke , yes we need to go back to the basics in radio -Capital Radio 604 was the benchmark!
Posted on 26 Mar 2012 15:17
Malcolm Russell
Right on the money Ant. Whatever happened to one-to-one radio? Today its about as sincere as a Get Well card from an undertaker. But radio lost its intelligence when it started programming for regulators rather than audiences.
Posted on 26 Mar 2012 22:54
Koketso Sachane
Wow, its amazing to have someone like the Duke put down the facts of what it really takes. Thank you Anthony for this. I agree with you 100 percent. Sometimes its painful to listen cause some things some of us consider to be basics to radio are not being followed. the other day on a national radio station, a DJ went on air at the beginning of the show and said to his co-host "so what are we going to talk about?" the answer was "im not sure", i couldnt believe it when the dj said "we will work it out" and went straight to song..I thank people like Zain Ibrahim how taught some of us the art of and respect for radio, the mic and most importantly the listener.. Thank you again for telling it like it is..
Posted on 28 Mar 2012 14:51
Anthony Duke
Right on the button bud. I have this problem with respect. To the listener, the advertiser or the boss. To come on air and not know what the f**k you are going to talk about shows absolutely no respect and also arrogant complacency...!!
Posted on 29 Mar 2012 09:02
Anthony Duke
Howzit Mal...? Long time no see...!
Posted on 29 Mar 2012 09:06
Ben Dikobe
...And the arrogant shall fall by the wayside... all in good time. Ant, you reffered in your article, to the airwaves being public space that needs to be treated with a measure of reverence and I think therein lies the biggest challenge for radio today: The majority of the current crop of radio jocks have come to treat the airwaves as an instrument akin to the government tender... Or grant (And I wouldn't worry much if it were a grant for mental disability) I spend a fair amount of time with jocks, albeit away from the media environment and find that this shallowness we hear on radio is part of the their respective radio stations' strategies to appeal and attract the lowest common denominator with disposable cash. Why?: An obtuse listener is very much unlikely to take the time to write a letter of complaint to the station manager, the station's Board of Directors and even BCCSA, expressing their displeasure at some offensive comment or unstisfactory content aspect. Remember the song "Video killed the radio jock"?... I honestly think poor old Video was framed by the club jock...
Posted on 29 Mar 2012 15:09
Richard Domeris
Brilliant Ant you have hit the nail on the head
Posted on 4 Apr 2012 15:21
Karabo Lance
Thanx Anthony for this. As an upcoming presenter who back in the days had a dream of becoming a presenter, because of listening to gous like Kenny Maistry, Back in the Mafutha Jam days at Metro FM, guys like Ernest Pillay, Bra Ben Dikobe and many others, I belive these guys did well, and some of them still in the industry. I want to play a part in bringing back that quality, that respect and that relationship a listener had with his/her radio station/presenter, where do I start?
Posted on 7 May 2012 15:32