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What’s Ahead for Radio’s Next Ten Years?

CENTRAL NEW YORK — All this week we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of with a series of special reports.  Yesterday, several folks who’ve been in local radio for 10+ years explained why they feel consolidation was “the” biggest story from the past decade.  Despite the negative side of consolidation, most radio pros are optimistic for what’s ahead.  Today, we share their predictions for the next ten years.

Tom Owens from Clear Channel’s B104.7 (WBBS) says he hopes the next decade will bring “more local content and talent.”  In some cases, that’s already happening. In Syracuse, for example, there’s been a veritable explosion of locally-produced sports talk shows.

Since locally-produced shows On the Block with Brent Axe and “Bud [Poliquin] and the Manchild” (Jim Lerch) were cut from Clear Channel’s WHEN a few years ago, both have resurfaced at Citadel’s The Score 1260 (WSKO) — Axe in 2008, then Lerch and Poliquin in 2010.  But WSKO didn’t stop at just breaking even: with Danny Parkins on middays and shows like “Syracuse SportsNight” in the evening, WSKO now offers 13 consecutive hours of locally-produced sports talk most weekdays.

When Galaxy Communications’ WTLA, WSGO and two FM translators became the Syracuse market’s affiliates for ESPN Radio last year, the company added a new local afternoon drive show called Disturbing the Peace.  Galaxy has also added additional local programming to supplement its position as the flagship stations for Syracuse University athletics.

Dave Wheeler has been in radio for just three years — but says he’s already witnessed improvements.  He describes his cluster’s Oldiez 96.1 (WODZ) as “a station that’s been on the bird for so long, [but] is now programmed locally.”  For many years, WODZ was live and local only during morning drive, with the remainder of the day’s programming being fed by satellite.  In 2010, the station tossed most of the syndicated fare aside, and the lineup consists predominantly of local personalities.

Wheeler predicts, “radio will be rebranded and regrow. Once the economy recovers, many jobs will come back.” He says he’s confident that, “with strong leaders in our industry, we can overcome syndication, track bots” and other forms of automation.

On the other side of Utica, Bill Keeler also sees potential for major changes ahead, but there’s a chance technology could wind up taking listeners away from traditional radio, rather than bringing them back.

“With iPods, Pandora, and technology that hasn’t even been invented yet, music on the radio could very well become as uncommon on FM as it is on AM. Or, will radio have the opportunity to embrace new technology which allows for programming to listeners in the same way Pandora does? Imagine the listener of broadcast radio being able to pick their own songs, or block songs that they don’t like.”

Wheeler concurs, frankly calling radio “an ever changing business”, and cautioning that “if you can’t learn to adapt, then you’re out of the game.”  He predicts “internet radio stations will start to grow in numbers” as portable technologies like smartphones and internet-capable automobiles become more commonplace.

Great points — your editor has always modified a famous Abraham Lincoln quote in describing music radio: when it comes to song selection, you can please all of the listeners some of the time and you can please some of the listeners all of the time, but you can’t please all the listeners all of the time.  Programmers, music directors and consultants do their best to create playlists with mass appeal, but if people were entirely happy with the way radio chooses music, iPods would be history by now — or maybe never invented in the first place.

But Wagner from Leatherstocking Media Group has another great point. “I don’t think we’re going to know [internet’s impact on terrestrial radio] until we find out how the general public will be charged for internet.”

In fact, in the short time since we had originally heard from Keeler and Wagner, CNET reported that Verizon Wireless has announced plans to terminate its current flat-rate pricing for unlimited data consumption for iPhone users.  AT&T, the first carrier to offer the iPhone, already has data caps in place.  This begs the question: will people be willing to pay more for online radio, or will we see users curtail their data use to avoid overage charges?

Wagner predicts the changing pricing structures for wireless data, “will have an effect on Pandora and the rest of the music sites, to what degree remains to be seen. Local radio may benefit but only if it remains VERY local in content.”

Wheeler points out “a lot more of our jobs are focused on digital.”  During his first job at Roser’s Kiss-FM (WSKS/WSKU), Wheeler says co-worker “Kenny The Promo Guy gave me the best advice (…) take complete advantage of the digital world. Everything is on the web: Facebook, blogs, gossip. The night Michael Jackson died, I found out through Twitter and Facebook.”  Even in just three years, Wheeler says “our jobs as radio personalities has evolved,” with the internet changing the way information is both gathered and presented by media outlets.

Amy Robbins from the 93Q morning show remains optimistic for the future of radio — and the people who will be making it happen.

“I still like to tell college students that there are still plenty of jobs in the field if they have enough enthusiasm and versatility to get their foot in the door. We have some great communications students (mainly from OCC) that have started off interning and now have at least part time jobs here. Even though they may not start in the most glamorous position, they show enough initiative to make us want to keep them around, and I hope these enthusiastic kids just keep on coming! (Now I do sound old, as I’m referring to them as ‘kids’!)”

As for her co-host, Ted Long simply has one humorous request, for “I think you need to feature more ‘Picture Of The Week’ flashbacks to when I was thin and had hair.”

And that just about brings us full circle: Ted’s referring to our March 28, 2008 POTW — which was the very first POTW to appear on “the new” after the site returned from a hiatus of nearly three years. We were certainly amazed when we found that photo on … it’ll be hard to top it, but we’ll see what we can do!

Of course, if anyone reading this can help out, your photo submissions are always welcome at  If you’ve got classic photos on paper, but you don’t have a scanner — let us know. We can make arrangements to scan those photos here at HQ and return them to you. Turns Ten

We’ve been featuring special articles every day this week at 10:10am since turned 10 years old on Tuesday.  The celebration wraps up tomorrow. We’ll have reflections from editors past and present, plus plenty of thoughts and reflections from local radio personalities and managers alike.

And just in case you’ve missed any of the previous 10th Anniversary special reports before today, we have a special page just for the 10th Anniversary articles.

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