Since my forgettable three-year stint in radio news some 20 years ago, I've maintained a fondness for the medium.
I often hear people claim newspaper readership is shrinking. They fail to notice that vast online audiences have more than made up for losses in print circulation.
What you don't hear much about is that radio has had it worse. Audiences for every station are greatly diminished from their heyday, as motorists - the prime audience for radio - switch to the growing number of listening alternatives, including satellite radio.
Bridge Ratings says radio audiences have fallen some 20 percent in the past five years. Unlike newspapers, radio's Internet audience hasn't made up for the loss.
It's no surprise, then, that local stations would seek ways to hold audience share. Still, many listeners were startled last Thursday when WGAC-AM's morning show signed on at 6:05 a.m. not with the usual banter between radio veteran Harley Drew and news director Mary Liz Noland, but with a short-attention-span format.
The show seems to have been strangled by the nemesis of broadcasters: The Corporate Consultant. I'm hearing that listeners are none too happy about the change, with some demanding the firing of station manager Kent Dunn.
Dunn tells me the format repeats the basics every 15 minutes in hopes of grabbing hit-and-run listeners.
The previous format skewed the station toward older listeners, while the new format is designed to attract younger listeners (and their money). The station inevitably will find those younger listeners are far less loyal.
Surely there's no connection, but it also seems curious that the format change stifles commentary from the very-conservative Drew just a day after he'd crowed so heartily over the election results.
The sadistic principal in the movie Matilda said the perfect school is one with no students. Some radio consultants won't be happy until they've crafted the perfect radio station: One with no listeners.
Best of the worst
Meanwhile, in such an award-happy medium, radio stations ought to give prizes for the worst radio commercials during campaign season (which, thankfully, is over).
I tend to focus on the voices in ads, mainly because the on-air talent at radio stations generally are practiced professionals with near-impeccable diction.
The voices in political commercials, in contrast, often are from the candidates themselves - many of whom have terrible voices for radio.
Funniest this year, by far, was Wayne Guilfoyle's ad for Richmond County commissioner. He voiced the whole thing, and sounded just like Forrest Gump. I'm glad he won despite that ad.
He should have taken a cue from another Augusta candidate, Grady Smith, who let someone else record his commercials (including singer Josh Kelley). That was clear when, at the end of the commercial, Smith intoned, "Paid for by the committee to elect Grady Smith," sounding one wheeze away from a heart attack.
By far the worst ad was Roy Barnes' attack piece against Nathan Deal, with two women discussing Deal's vote on a rape shield law.
Republicans were incensed at the deceptive nature of the attack. Listeners, though, had to cringe every time the ad's protagonist spoke through vocal cords that sounded like they'd been roughed up by years of nicotine abuse. Who in the world found that grating voice compelling?
Every radio listener likely will join me in saying good riddance to the two men sitting in the diner, the characters featured in both races for governor. If that's how the candidates see their voters, we're in a heap o' trouble.
An artsy note
The Columbia County Artists Guild will again hold its signature fundraiser, Art After Dark, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, at Church of the Holy Comforter on Furys Ferry Road in Martinez.
It's a lot of fun, and tickets cost just $5 (at our office, and available at the door).
As part of the "celebrity" art auction, I'm donating a set of three framed reproductions of Augusta Brewing Co. ads that were printed in The Augusta Chronicle around 1914. They're pretty cool - and you can't get them anywhere else.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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