Why Kyle & Howard Stern are Dinosaurs

Why do today’s Content Directors have an obsession with reality TV stars and stand-up comics when it comes to casting their on-air teams?

Sure beats me!

Seems this industry goes endlessly trawling through TV reality shows and comedy festivals in search of its next ‘breakthrough’ star, as though these people have a special kind of magic to offer.

You don’t see major hotel chains looking for their next sous chef from the dregs of My Kitchen Rules or Masterchef.

That’s because hotels want people who can bring in genuine experience and talent, not just the superficial celebrity of a couple of appearances on national television.

If hotel operators are smart enough businesspeople to know there is little substance in reality shows, why don’t the big radio networks?

There are standout figures in the radio industry, who are highly talented, creative and experienced and have spent years in large regional markets and the minor metros.

They’ve honed their skills, learned their craft and know how the industry works from the inside out.

These professionals get to know from years of hands-on experience what works with an audience and how to motivate their listeners.

Their experience not only gives them the ability ‘to get out of trouble, before they get into it’, but, more often than not, a basic understanding of programming, music, advertising, promotion, and, even some technical skills, that can only help to serve the stations they work for.

Kyle Sandilands worked his way up, honing his skills in the Darwin market, and, had years of experience to draw on by the time he hit Sydney.

In the US, Howard Stern worked his way through a string a regional and minor-metro stations before scoring New York.

Kyle, and, Howard Stern and the members of his air team weren’t plucked off some reality show; they were experienced pros before they hit ‘the big time’.

Knowledge and talent, combined with experience, help keep a station working at a professional level and ensure it holds a stable audience.

But, of course, we all know that’s not good enough today; that’s yesterday’s thinking.

Today’s metro Content Directors are under all sorts of pressure from above to produce more than just a ‘stable’ audience for their stations.

They need growth … and they need it now!

So, CD’s routinely pass over highly talented up-and-coming industry professionals, because they believe ‘reality show-ers’ will bring with them an instant bump in their audience figures through a perceived ‘celebrity’ factor.

Sometimes, that thinking works, but clearly, not always.

Just because someone is extroverted and able to make a few smart-arsed comments on a reality show, like Big Brother or the Block, doesn’t mean they have the skills to successfully hold down a major metro radio gig over the long haul.

Perhaps, that’s why we now have to have breakfast ‘teams’, so that they can share the creative load, as these ‘instant celebs’ are usually learning radio ‘on the job’.

Professional programmers know deep down that stability is what builds long-term listener loyalty and ratings, but that philosophy is now being thrown to the wind.

Unfortunately, most ‘instant celebrities’ who are recruited for big radio gig pretty much ‘off the street’, tend to end up back there, sooner rather than later.

That’s largely because they don’t have the depth of industry experience to draw on to get to their next station, and, once their celebrity has been fully exploited, they have little residual value within the industry.

There is also another problem that constantly bugs management everywhere.

It always seems that people with the least amount of industry experience and the so-called ‘instant celebrities’ tend to give you the biggest headaches with their runaway egos.

As time goes by, you often feel you’d be better off without difficult people to deal with, and, when push comes to shove, it gets to a point where you take the opportunity to shove.

Former reality stars, like Chrissie Swan and others, are usually brought in so stations can trade on their fame for a year or two.

Sometimes, they may perform well and might even get a gig at a second or third station, but, ultimately, they get ‘chewed up and spat out’.

It’s the harsh nature of an exploitive industry and some hopefuls are sitting at the high stakes table without ever having shuffled a deck!

These eager young ‘stars’ are given the spiel that they’re great talent, they don’t have to start at the bottom, they are on their way to stardom and their unique talent will carry them to a long and lucrative career.

For some, this may prove to be true, but in reality, it’s the exception rather than the rule, and, metro stations simply wring every ounce of celebrity out of them, then throw them out with the trash.

It’s the way the game’s played – a real dose of reality!

The people who get this treatment are understandably left bitter and disillusioned.

I’m sure Chrissie Swan feels she’s done a great job at MIX 101.1 and has been left bewildered as to why, at year’s end, she was left facing a future out in the cold.

Many people recruited through notoriety come in and out of the radio industry before the end of their twenties and may never achieve the same level of success again in their working lives.

It’s a debilitating and depressing experience, but, it’s what Andy Warhol called ’15 Minutes of Fame’.

The time really has come for the industry to forget ‘quick fixes’ to boost ratings and revert to the development of long-term talent.

CD’s need to go back to the proven process of bringing high-performing and experienced people into their metro stations and begin grooming them to take on the top on-air roles.

This doesn’t mean that content directors shouldn’t be on the lookout for genuine talent, wherever it may be hiding, but the cast of the next reality show, shouldn’t automatically become a “must have” for metro breakfast.

About The Author: Brad SMART has been a journalist, consultant, author, broadcaster, film director and was the former owner of the Smart Radio Network throughout Queensland. Brad can be contacted on email here


For another perspective on talent identification and development see Dan Bradley’s article: Reality has nothing to do with ‘real’  here

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