8 Things that Are Good and Bad About Radio


Woman laying down and listening to radio.
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Setting out to write a piece on the good and bad of today's radio is slightly difficult for me because I work in the commercial aspect of it day-to-day and that might either lend itself to a particular bias or shield me from seeing things as an outside might. I guess that's a bit of a disclaimer. So, aside from those possible pitfalls, I will try and present an accurate list of what's right and what's wrong with radio.

Some Good Things


Radio (commercial and other forms) has wholly embraced the online world in all ways. Because of the technological advances in streaming, every local radio station - even those severely limited in power - can have a global audience by streaming through the Internet. That's a win-win for the station, for devoted listeners who are not in the local signal area, for potential new listeners located elsewhere, and for advertisers.

Social Media

Television used to taunt radio because it had a picture and radio did not. Television always looked at radio as a media stepchild, incomplete by nature. Well, the Internet leveled that playing field somewhat by giving radio stations the ability to present photos, video, audio, and interaction coupled with programming. Radio has adapted to Social Media, integrating with all that the Internet offers, giving radio opportunities to enhance its brand.

Webmasters, IT Specialists, Social Media Mavens, and More

Although the radio industry has lost thousands of jobs over the past ten years, new ones have been created where there were no jobs before. Stations need webmasters and IT specialists who can build websites and fix servers. Some radio stations even turn to Social Media experts to keep their Facebook, Twitter, and other online accounts active and fresh.

Automation and Voice Tracking

This is a double-sided sword and you'll notice below that I've listed this same advance as a negative. But, first let me tell you why it's a positive. The automation software available today is so sophisticated, it can keep a radio station going indefinitely. When a key personality goes on vacation, a station can play a "best of" from that personalities archives or the host can "voice track" in advance the shows he/she would normally do. I appreciate this only because I was a Program Director twice in my career and I know what it is like when somebody calls in sick at the last minute or walks off while on-the-air and leaves the station unmanned. I would have given anything to have sophisticated automation in those situations.

Some Bad Things

The Radio Halls are Empty

So many talented people have been forced out of radio during the past ten years it's sickening. Some of this was due to deregulation of radio law, consolidation of radio stations into bigger companies, downsizing because of overlapping positions, centralization of programming, voice tracking, automation, and the recession of 2008. The loss of all these people over the years has been a drain on radio's creativity.

How could it not be? We will never know what these thousands of people could have brought to the radio stage each day. The loss of jobs and reductions of air staffs has also been a disservice to listeners who just get a lesser product.

Radio Got Rid of Copywriters

Almost every radio station used to have a Copywriter. A copywriter's job was to write inventive and creative commercial scripts so a Production Director could produce it to air. This helped to insure that commercials contained all the proper information and were entertaining. But, stations started to slash Copywriter jobs back in the 1990s and developed this misinformed mentality that anyone could write a commercial. Well, in a sense that's true. Anyone can write one. But, it won't necessarily be much a good one.

Automation and Voice Tracking

Detroit uses automation to make cars. That's all well and good when a company is turning out thousands of cars that are exactly the same.

But, it's been kind of a disaster for personality radio. Before automation, radio stations were forced to staff themselves with live people all day and all night. This meant a lot of talent and choices for listeners. It meant younger talents could hone their skills in lesser listened shifts and when ready, advance into more important times of the day.

Radio was a breeding ground for talented hosts and deejays. But, today much of the opportunity has disappeared and careers have been cut short because of the exploitation of automation and voice-tracking.

Radio Got Rid of Production Directors

Every radio station used to have a Production Director. The position was as essential as any other. The Production Director was in charge of producing the station's promos, commercials, imaging, and other audio. A good Production Director was worth his weight in gold. The best ones were artists and they used sound as a canvas to paint their audio. The Production Director also maintained quality control and insured that each smaller piece of audio that created the flow of a station was flawless and correct. Many stations don't have one anymore and of course, overall quality has suffered.

In the end, it seems a business is always trying to balance the role of people versus technology. In radio's case, it depends on who you talk to as to whether technology has helped radio - or hurt it more.