Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Clutter Radio

Clutter has always been a problem in the radio business. Stations want to give you lots of content, but still get in all the commercials and sponsorship messages that pay for the rest of the programming you want to hear, hopefully without making you tune out.

Why, then, would a radio station publicize the fact that, in between its sixty-minute music sweeps, it's going to play commercials for nine minutes in a row? That's what the new Top 40 station in St. Louis is doing.

In an age of ADD listening, where people will punch away the moment they hear something they consider clutter, nine minutes is an eternity. And a nine-minute commercial block isn't necessarily limited to nine 60-second commercials. There could be some :30's or :15's in the mix, which only add to the clutter perception.

With so many people listening to streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, where the commercial breaks are really short (or non-existent for users who have paid for the premium service), its seems suicidal to drive listeners away for that long. I'm sure the station is willing to take that risk in the hope it can keep more ears tuned in for the hour of music between breaks -- which is fine, as long as they like every song you play. As soon as you play one they don't like, they'll be gone, commercials or not.

Of course, tune-out due to clutter is always a problem, regardless of how many spots a station plays in one stopset, but to overload it to that extent seems counter-productive to me. Moreover, what does that station tell its advertisers? If I'm paying for commercial time, I don't want to be buried in the 7th or 8th minute of that much clutter, for fear that no one would hear it!