The REAL Truth About Radio 2022

Content from Lee Abrams and Dave Charles           

Lee and I enjoy our collaborations. We’re constantly looking for the next media wave to ride. Lately our talks have been on creative and compelling content.

Radio is in an undeniable position of strength in terms of accessibility, but as a fan and player in the medium, it has the potential for long-term extinction in its current form. There are a lot of red flags that need to be addressed. 

When is the last time you heard or read about a radio content war or a station that’s tearing up a market with a new sound?

Content brilliance needs to be part of the conversation if radio is to survive. If the excitement in radio is all about the deals, where does that leave the listener who could care less about who owns who? ‘

Consolidation…‘Death by the deal and over consolidation’ is a real possibility as media’s eye is so far off the content ball, that we simply can’t compete to win in the Google/Apple era. Deals will be done, but it’s the magic that comes out of the speakers and screens that’ll move things forward, and that needs to be in the conversation every bit as much as the business and economy of radio.

It’s time to recruit, enable and inspire creative content stars, and not just talk hosts… but content creators. Radio seems to hire based on purely operational aptitude, driving those with heavy creative aptitude to other industries. That 19-year-old creative star will probably look at TV and Radio as the last place they’d want to be in 2022.


Some stations remain stuck on a ‘70s focus group autopilot. We’re in the era where competition from other music sources is on steroids, but radio is in the “X108 plays more variety’ era. The Simpsons and Onion parody this stuff. Stations should install cliche buzzers—three buzzes and you’re fired.


50’s- Deejays
60’s- PD’s
70’s- Consultants
80’s- Researchers
90’s- Group Heads
00’s-beyond – Bankers and new media

Radio needs STARS in; Business, Revenue, Technology, Operations and Creative.
When you hear “Content is King”…run! It’s not king. Revenue is and great content drives new revenue. Or, you hear…’ Spotify only has a small share of listenership.’ Ha ha !
Radio is great because when a tornado hits, you don’t go to Spotify (Maybe not yet, but then again, what about the 358 non-tornadic days?)

The Digital Excuse;
Digital is now…and the future. Pretty obvious. But–it’s often an excuse. A shortcut that undermines the REAL issue, dated and tired 80’s rooted content. If a station is tired and dull, a new App won’t magically make it great, but that’s the thinking out there.

The Secret Conspiracy;

Seems there’s some secret law that says a Technology company can innovate daily.Apple or MS Version 12, Version 13, Upgrades, Purple iPhones, etc.… Radio… not so much.  Radio is using the same playbook with new slogans. Even TV and Fashion has “New Fall Seasons” Radio is on innovation autopilot at a time when, to prosper in the Google/Apple era you need to innovate daily.

Canadian and American media is getting beaten by the SMART Phone and Cable companies in terms of innovation. We’ve given up or lost that leadership position. That’s wrong. But radio does have CONTENT Directors finally, formerly Program Directors. But Content Directors are not necessary creating new content rather they determine what goes to air.

Radio has become a stagnant commodity hoping a new App will fix everything at a time when tech companies have embraced the 21st Century. This isn’t 1975 where you plug in a format and go. It’s a new world requiring constant updating and fresh creativity.


Rock n’ Roll is arguably on life support as is music radio. It may not be apparent yet, but when it starts looking backwards, the best days are behind it. But that’s OK, you can learn from it and build on the NEW Rock n Roll. By Rock being dead, I mean as a driver of culture.

Whereas Elvis drove culture, nowadays it’s Facebook…and News. The world is having a nervous breakdown and that’s what s moving the culture. I doubt if a new Beatles will emerge that make everything right…culture is all about media and information. BUT–The M.O. of Rock n’ Roll is timeless and we need Rock n Roll thinking, regardless of format or style. The characteristics of Rock n’ Roll thinking include:

ECCENTRICITY…all the way to the bank.
INNOVATION as the driver of everything you do.
ATTITUDE…a true spirit.
SWAGGER…a sense of real confidence and purpose.
NEWNESS…the constant struggle to be first.
RE-INVENTION… a desire and motivation to create fans, not USERS.
POWERFUL…culture moving and trend setting.
CHANGING…always pushing forward.
COMPETITIVE…creatively fighting for success.
ARTFUL… creating commerce through art (art is not a bad word unless it’s bad art)
INSTINCTIVE…not relying on yesterday’s information or being derivative.
REBELLIOUS… a fighting spirit that’s intelligent…in a mass appeal way.
NON-ELITIST…for the masses.

Today’s Radio Truth in summary;

Get back to the roots. What a listener/viewer hears and sees from the speakers, the screens and on the streets.

Stop with the excuses. i.e. ‘Everything will be fine when the economy improves’…’we have a new App’…’We’ve been here since 1962’….’ we’re local because our tower is here’.

Radio has one incredible thing going for it—Reach. Everyone has a radio. Radio and TV are in a position of strength. Just imagine if everyone had a Mac. Do you think Apple would call it quits?

Radio and TV have, as mediums, given up the content fight at a time when THE MAGIC OF WHAT COMES OUT OF THE SCREENS AND SPEAKERS is more powerful than ANY technology. Combined with technology, it’s untouchable.

For todays Radio, its time to get on battle footing and start to create the magic on 2022 terms.


Dave Charles


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