Chapter 9

Radio Is Hell. But It’s a Dry Heat

Some advice on working in a tough medium

IF YOU HAVE A CHILD AGE FIVE OR YOUNGER, you already understand the basic problem facing the radio writer.

“Put that down. No, do NOT draw on the dog. Do NOT draw on the dog! Didn’t you hear me? I said do not stick that crayon in the dog’s . . . NO! Put that down!”

Both the parent and the radio writer are talking to someone who is not listening.

In the end, parents have a slight edge. They can send their children to their room, but the poor radio writer is left to figure out a way to get customers to listen.

If you think about it, the whole radio medium is used very differently than is print, online, or TV. In print, you have readers actively holding the magazine or newspaper up to their faces; they’re engaged, as is the TV watcher or the Web surfer. But radio is typically just sort of on in the background while people stay busy doing other things. It’s just sorta there. People tune into and out of it depending on how interesting the material being broadcast is.

And so we’re back to our old problem. We must be interesting.

First rule: do not suck.

It is one of the great mysteries of advertising. Most radio is . . . well, it’s not very good.

Over the years, I’ve judged many awards shows. In every show I can remember, the judges loved poring over the print. Looking at the TV was fun. But when the time came to sit down and listen to several hours of radio commercials, the room thinned out. Nobody ...

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