Tag Archives: radio

Let A Platitude Be Your Attitude

5 May

What is the difference between a quotation and a platitude? How can one person hear a cute saying and think it’s profound and another think it’s insipid? Does it have something to do with how it’s communicated?

I was listening to the radio and the same PSA came on for the umpteenth time. It sounds like Amanda Gorman, the current poet laureate, but it’s not be her; someone who is imitating her style. It starts off with “A return to sanity, could it be?” It goes into this poetic reading of the benefits of getting the vaccine and how it will help us get back to normal.

I really hate it.

However, let me do a little metacognition–that means I’m pretentious–thinking about how I think. Why do I hate this PSA? The first thought is my same thought about all PSAs; why do we need this commercial? Do you think people haven’t heard about the vaccine by now? Don’t you think people have already made up their minds about this vaccine? They’ll either get it or they’re waiting for availability or they won’t.

Who will hear this well-drafted poem that hasn’t heard the message already? “Click it or ticket” has been around for decades and yet I still have a friend who will never put a seat belt on. Ever. He’s the only one. The message is out there; you won the argument! Accept 99% compliance. That’s a win.

I think another reason is the repetition. I’ve heard this commercial five times a day; it’s played on this radio station every hour… maybe every half hour… because radio stations are required to play a certain percentage of PSA’s in their ad stream. Also because iHeartMedia charges companies differently for live streams than broadcast frequencies. There’s less advertisers who want to pay that, therefore, more PSA’s to fill the void.

I think the best example of this is music. I like the song “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” by Nine Days; everyone else of my generation hates it. Why? Because it was played on a high repetition when it came out in 2000. I love the lyrics, I love the tempo… but I also haven’t heard it a lot. Even now, I’m reluctant to actually play it, because it’s such an earworm, I can play it in my head easily.

My wife suggests that part of the problem is that it’s an unfamiliar style. Then again, she’s bought critical race theory whole; that doesn’t mean she’s wrong in this case. It’s an African-American doing a “performance poem,” which my lily-white ears aren’t comfortable with. The “other” does make things more difficult to accept. I never listened to rap growing up, so when my drinking buddy wants to crank up the rap from my generation, I can’t share the joy that he has about the genre. So I’m not down with it.

So this PSA fails on message, repetition, and style for me. You could judge it yourself. However, I think you remember something similar. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. This post brought to you by Albigensia Press and the Ad Council. 🙂

“And you know me, I’ll have another [ad].”

22 Nov

Radio is a very personal medium; it’s just you and the hosts. Your brain makes you believe that you have a personal connection with the speaker, even though you’ve never met. So when a host does a commercial, they’re counting on that connection… and sometimes it falls flat.

I used “Double L” as my perfect example. As previously mentioned, I listen to two or three terrestrial radio shows, only one of which I listen to live. I get that through iHeartRadio, the ClearChannel conglomerate that bought up 18% of US radio stations. However, iHeart is rather clever, and realized that people listening to Sacramento commercials doesn’t do them any good. So a year or two ago, they set up an algorithm that replaced local commercials with commercials in your market area. However, the average listener has tuned out the glossy ads, so hosts are encouraged to do live reads, which can then be recorded for later use.

It’s a brilliant idea and works very well on stations where you’re listening to that host on their show. However, this is where the cleverness fails. iHeart has decided to take those ads and broadcast them to regional listeners. After all, KNIX is the Phoenix country station–you’re in Phoenix! You must listen to KNIX and know these people!

Here’s the problem – there are 23 AM and 39 FM stations in the Phoenix metro area. I don’t speak Spanish, so 10 of them are out, but that still leaves 52 stations I could be listening to. I only listen to Country when I’m in the bar, so sorry, Double L… I don’t know you.

It almost seems like a violation of radio listener social contract. “Check your Corona Beer stash!” Sorry, LL, I don’t drink beer – I’m a liquor drinker. So yep, my stash remains as it always has… ZERO. I’ve also heard Spanish language ads on my podcast because… well, you’re in Phoenix, right? You must speak Spanish!

James T Harris is another example of this. When he says, “You know how much I love grilling…” Jimmy, I hardly know ye! Of course, if I’m hearing his commercials, it tells me that iHeart’s algorithms are getting closer to the mark… at least, you’re in the right genre.

I learned long ago that iHeart charges advertisers different rates. If you want to be heard just on regular radio waves, you get one rate. If you want to be ALSO heard online, they charge you more. Which is why there’s not as many local ads–they have to fill it with “We’ve gone one on one with Bono to ask him [whatever he’s bloviating about now]!” or “Here’s the top Earth, Wind, and Fire songs you’ve thumbed up!” I couldn’t name a single EWF song with a gun to my head. Sure, when they play them, I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I know that one,” but I’m obviously not their demographic for that. iHeart don’t care… they’re just trying to avoid dead air.

Am I the only one who’s bugged by this? Do you recognize the personal nature of radio – or am I fooling myself? Let me know in the comments below!

What Would Marconi Think?

7 Nov

I’m an avid listener of radio. I listen to two, sometimes three different radio shows a day, not including the weekly podcasts that I ebb and flow. How would the creator of radio have perceived his invention changing the world?

Guglielmo Marconi is an interesting figure – like many inventors, was obsessive, ridiculed, and had to go to extremes to prove his idea. In his case, he left his home country to sell the idea to the British. This expanded to replacing the telegraph, allowing greater communication between different countries, eventually broadcasting entertainment in his lifetime. He also joined the Fascist Party (not “they’re Fascist,” I mean actual Fascists in Italy) and helped Mussolini with military communications between their campaign in Ethiopia and Italian military command. On the other hand, started the first Vatican broadcast with the pope, so… he’s complicated.

Of course, he died before the television was widely known, and much of radio’s dominance disappeared thirty years after him. Like any good industry, radio adapted, using different frequencies and different stations to address different audiences. There were only three television stations so they had to reach a wide audience to compete – radio had thousands of stations, although each market might have had 20-30.

With the Internet and streaming services, the industry adapted again. Many of those stations were absorbed by bigger conglomerates who could take advantage of the global reach. I remember listening to Israeli hip-hop in 2004 while living on a mountain in India. In 2006, I got addicted to a talk show in Sacramento while living in Cincinnati because some fan copied their podcast downloads and played it on a comedy stream.

Now I can listen to clips broadcast by people on social media I’ve never met. What would Marconi think? Well, once he got past the “Cover your arms, woman! Are you a strumpet?!”, he might be fascinated by the level of intricacy that the technology provides to allow for his original radio to spread. Personally, I’d point out how the commercials are geolocated for where I am in Arizona, so I don’t hear the Sacramento feed unadulterated.

But after that… where do you go when the idea you were fascinated with has been surpassed three steps ahead? Well, you start with a question. Why don’t we have flying cars? Can I start a regular spaceship service to the Moon? Most of the time, there are good reasons we can’t… but you need to keep asking questions, and I think Marconi would agree. If he could stop looking at the co-eds–he’s Italian after all?

What questions do you keep asking? Am I grasping for straws? Is it pointless to ask what dead people think of the modern world? Let me know in the comments below!

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