Thursday, March 3, 2016


I saw an article in Radio World [link] that caught my eye: Three Radio Careers for the Next Generation by Dick Taylor. I have been reading Dick’s excellent blog [link] ever since I heard about it on Tom Taylor NOW [link].  Taylor is a longtime radio guy who is now passing along his knowledge to students at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

Taylor’s blog goes behind the scenes of the commercial broadcasting biz. But it is not a retro site; instead it is focused on radio/audio now and in the near future. 

Recently Taylor and one of his students conducted a research project with the 
Kentucky Broadcast Association [link] and 
its 300 member stations.

goal of the research was to understand how the jobs landscape for radio/audio newbies is changing. They looked at job skill trends in recent years and asked Kentucky broadcasters to project five years in the future.   

Taylor identified three core skills that are likely to grow.  Here they are in Taylor’s words plus my thoughts:

1. Sales
The job most in demand will come as no surprise, I’m sure. Radio has a never-ending need for trained, professional sales people. Since I started in radio, it seems, a desire to hire good sales people has always been on the lips of general managers and sales managers.
For colleges, this represents an opportunity to offer more courses in this area for their broadcast majors. Radio stations have never had more products to sell. Beyond commercial air time, sponsorships and events, the amount of content that can be sponsored online has mushroomed.
KEN: Readers may think that sales aptitude is important only for folks who want to work in commercial radio/audio. But, knowing the basics of sales is important and an increasingly valuable for independent contractors and noncom workers.
So often when folks think of "sales" they picture stereotypes like Herb Tarlek from WKRP. Sales skills are more than that – they are an essential survival tools for the gig economy. Fundamentals such as how to prospect for new business, closing techniques and persuasion are universal human skills that can be applied anywhere.
2. Internet content creators
A second job that is growing in demand across the radio industry is for people who can create original content for radio station websites. Not cut-and-paste artists who “borrow” others’ website content and repurpose it, but innovators who can act as a combination journalist/advertising/public relations specialist and populate radio station websites with engaging, compelling original content that is of interest to people in the station’s service area.
KEN: Radio stations are becoming multi-platform content factories. Content is the variable that drives all media. How to implement and use research, the ability to put data in context and learning how to spot trends in demand.
3. RF broadcast engineers
Not that it has ever been easy to find great radio engineers, but the talent pool has changed. Consolidation chased a lot of them out of the business; others became consulting engineers to groups of radio stations. Computers and digital put new demands on radio engineers to learn new technologies or leave. Many who stayed or went into private consulting are now reaching the age of retirement.
KEN: I am a bit surprised to see this skill-set mentioned in Taylor’s research.  I hope it is true. “RF” means “radio frequency” – the basic distribution of content on wireless signals such as FM. Some observers say that broadcast radio will go away but I don’t agree. Radio has advantages over wired-media and is an ideal companion to many digital platforms and devices. Again, think of radio stations as content factories. Engineers are essential.
This summer the Kentucky Broadcasters and WKU are hosting the 4th annual Radio Talent Institute workshop [link]. The Institute is an incubator and orientation to help identify and bring new talent into the radio/audio industry. 
It is a ten-day series of classes that cover the basics: on-air work, programming strategies, digital production and use of interactive media. Each participating student goes through sales training 101 and can become certified as Radio Marketing Professionals by the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB). The certification is a ticket into media sales employment. According the KBA, 70% of the students with this certification and other essential skills get their first job in radio or a related field after graduation.

Students must apply today 3/4/16 to qualify.

1 comment:

  1. It's probably worth noting that there's a reason why the radio industry has a never-ending demand for salespeople: because the jobs are terrible. You're constantly fighting amongst too many salespeople assigned to too few clients in too small a market with too high a quota.

    And it's all highly exacerbated by the "next quarter only" focus common in publicly-traded companies. Doesn't matter how many bridges you burn this quarter, so long as you make your quota. Next quarter's problems are for next quarter.

    Like in this old Dilbert comic: "We don't ASK you to act illegally, but it's pretty much the only way to meet quota."

    Certainly there's a type of personality that can survive, if not thrive, in that kind of cut-throat environment. But they're comparatively rare. That's why you see such ridiculous churn levels in a lot of stations' salesforces.

    Obviously there are exceptions. Public radio, and truly independent local radio, for example, tend to be a lot more community-focused and thus more interested in working things for the long-term. So they hire their sales staff appropriately. Tougher to get in, but a lot easier to stay in.

    I, too, am surprised and pleased to see engineering on the list, though. (obviously I'm biased since I *am* an engineer :) of course) But I'd be cautious about the trope that "so many engineers are retiring every day, there's gonna be SO MANY job openings in engineering!" I've heard that line since I was an undergrad back in 1998. It's yet to come true. There's four factors that have consistently combined to prevent there being a real "engineer shortage":

    1. Much broadcast equipment has become more reliable. At the same time, it's become less repairable...but it's easier to just toss it out and buy a new one because it's also gotten a lot cheaper.

    2. Related to #1, the nature has largely changed. IT has supplanted a tremendous amount of "traditional" radio engineering knowledge. Mix boards, automation, audio editing, processing, STL, etc - it's all IT-based now. And there's a giant glut of IT professionals out there. Many are woefully unqualified to operate in a broadcast environment, but they nevertheless exert downward pressure on the job market.

    3. With ownership consolidation, you don't need five engineers to manage five (or twenty) stations anymore. That trend STILL hasn't fully played out yet.

    4. The lousy economy slammed the brakes on a lot of retirement plans.

    That said, engineering skills are still useful and, in many cases, highly transferable to other industries. And unlikely content positions, there's still a lot fewer people chasing a lot more jobs...and the jobs do tend to pay better, too.