Selling the Donut Hole

Clear Channel has an interesting new survival strategy.  Convince people to buy what they’re not selling.

This year, Clear Channel has slashed most of its local on-air staff around the country in order to try to survive under their burden of about $20 billion in debt.   The “Suits” have pushed the idea now that their stations will emphasize “We’re local” when in fact most of the time there is nobody at all at the station, and the “local” news, traffic reports and weather are dropped in from someone sitting in a studio a thousand miles away.

My local News/Talk station (WELI) has hit a new low.   They started running advertisements saying “more or less”…. why listen to music on your MP3 player…. you’re so “alone”…  come listen to radio where we are a “community”.   

WELI has *no* local programming during the week – none, zip, nada.   The sports guy from the all-sports channel down the hall does recorded dropins that are played during breaks (and a couple hours very early on Saturday morning talking to local high school coachs).   They air  Imus/Beck/Rush/Hannity/Levin/Savage and 6 hours of Coast to Coast.  The Final “almost local” show was a Good Democrat  / Bad Republican political talk show with a snot nosed kid (“the Producer” of the show) who came to Connecticut from out of state telling a well respected Republican State Senator what he could and couldn’t say on the air on his own show – and the Republican Senator walked out on the show and left the child to talk to himself on air.  That lasted a few days and then the station died.

Over on the music side of Clear Channel, they’re pushing stations to carry Bob&Tom, Steve Harvey, Elvis Duran, Big D& Bubba, John Boy&Billy, Delilah, Ryan Seacrest,  and Blair Gardner and dump their local hosts.   Much of the programming is not live – it is just voice tracking where a computer plays songs, with a prerecorded intro by the “host”.   When the world was stunned by the Death of Michael Jackson, the music just played on and on for hours like nothing had happened.  Even if there was anyone in the studio building, nobody knows how to set up the studio to take phone calls to “hear from the community”. 

Who is kidding whom?   How is listening to a Clear Channel computer playing music more “in touch with other humans” than listening to your iPod?  (other than the 14 minutes of commericals per hour)

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