Competition is a good thing in any industry. In radio when there's competition, the listener wins, and many epic on-air battles have taken place. Unfortunately, radio wars are not as bloody as they once were for a couple of reasons. First, consolidation has dramatically reduced the number of competitors. Second, the niche nature of radio has resulted in less stations in a market doing the exact same format. Competition does exist though, especially among consolidators, and I love seeing it.
Stations sometimes forget one fact of competition, however. Once something goes out over the air, it's public knowledge. If a competing station decides to fight back by copying it, that's fair play. And while copying might show lack of originality, it's also indicative of being at full alert and determined to win.
One summer Sunday afternoon in the mid-80's, I was in New York's Central Park with my Walkman tuned to Power 95 (WPLJ-FM), then in a heated CHR battle with Z100 (WHTZ-FM). At the time, Michael Jackson was the world's most popular entertainer. Over the prior week, Power 95 heavily promoted that on Sunday, it would broadcast the details of Jackson's upcoming tour dates; and that it would have the information exclusively, due to its relationship with Ticketmaster.
Well, it didn't take long. Mere minutes after WPLJ started releasing the tour dates, air personality Pat St. John announced that Program Director Larry Berger was about to take to the air with an important announcement. Berger complained that Z100 was getting the information from Power 95 and then broadcasting it. The rest of the afternoon, St. John frequently repeated the accusation.
What had Berger been thinking? How can you have an exclusive when you're broadcasting the information out to everyone? In a sense, what Z100 did might have been tacky, but it was also smart and indicated a motivated competitor. By the way, the silliness continued into Monday morning, when Power 95 played the voice of the Ticketmaster representative saying that she had given the information only to WPLJ. Over at Z100, in response to a listener complaining about an inaccuracy, PD and morning man Scott Shannon suggested the person call the Ticketmaster rep. In typical Shannon fashion, he said, "That's who we were getting it from."
Around the year 2000, B98.5 FM and Peach 94-9 were still in a tussle over Atlanta's AC crown. Peach PD Vance Dillard decided to introduce "The 8AM All-Music Hour." Exactly one week later, "The 9AM All-Music Hour" debuted on B98.5. The only thing that surprised me was that B98.5 did not attempt to make the title even slightly different.
At the time, I was writing another radio column and spoke with Dillard by phone. He told me that the 8 o'clock hour was the bigger one in terms of listeners. He also asserted that most of the liners on B98.5 had been written by him (read: copied). He was not especially elated that B98.5 had taken his ideas. But again, once it's out there, it's out there.
Early this year, Star 94 started its "Commercial-Free Ride." Eliminating the first of 2 stop sets in the 5PM hour resulted in no spots between 4:50 and 5:45. How long did it take for Q100, Star 94's closest competitor, to react? In seemingly no time, Q100 was promoting its own "Commercial-Free Ride." Ironically, Q100 had not eliminated any commercials but was touting the illusion during its music sweeps. I heard from an outside source that Star was none too pleased, and I certainly understand the frustration. But Q100 did what a competitor on high alert should have done.
Once something leaves the antenna, there are no secrets in radio.
GRHOF Induction is Coming
I'm becoming excited, as I do this time every year, about the annual Georgia Radio Hall of Fame Induction Dinner. It's a perfect place to hobnob with Atlanta radio people, past and present; and to see some of the greats recognized. GRHOF President John Long tells me that a few tickets are still available at www.grhof.com. One special thing slated for the event is getting the induction certificate and medallion of late Quixie (WQXI-AM) personality Pat Hughes into the hands of his sons, whom John was able to find on Facebook.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/