Aaron at CappyCap:
The great thing about radio, however, is that it can be syndicated or broadcasted across the nation. So when a radio station has the choice of hiring some local talent and having to pay that individual a living wage, or merely “leasing” the broadcasting rights for a nationally syndicated show for 1/10th of the cost, what do you think they’re going to do? Yes, this results in regional superstars like “Jason Lewis” or “Michael Medved” but it also results in homogeneity. Homogeneity that can be predicted, gets boring, and gets stale.
So while it may be financially beneficial to go with established, seasoned radio show hosts, it prevents any new talent, let alone, better talent from getting in. Additionally, since this more or less ensconces established talent, it also ensures this talented is aged, old, and separated from upcoming generations, and thus, markets.
It is here we have the third contributing factor to the market failure of talk radio – their inability to address younger generations.
Having ‘worked’ in talk radio for a cup of coffee and leftover cake (funny story), I can without a doubt state there is no “underclass” of talented professionals ready to step in when the current field of giants begin to fade away (the exception being sports radio, which has regional-based markets and can afford to grow the talent base). There are experienced drive-time and morning guys, there are the national guys, and some of the FM morning shows are okay, but when it comes to politics, which requires a depth of knowledge that takes years to absorb, there really is no one in the pipeline.
It’s not healthy, and it represents a form of the “hollowing out” of the American workforce people my age are intimately familiar with. There is a complete absence of leadership positions in the center of the org charts, positions where you have to lead people and make decisions with real consequences, but to a lesser degree of jeopardy and difficulty. Positions that were used, in the now-distant past, to teach the fundamentals of organizational leadership.
To be fair, there is logic to this situation: middle management tends to decrease efficiency and to attract rent-seekers, and foreign competition and slow economic growth have basically necessitated this result; the question remains, how will the transition from one generation to the next go? Yes, the Baby Boomers are holding on to their current positions because their retirement plans were forever derailed by the Great Recession, but everyone dies eventually.
We’ve abandoned the ancient form of creating new leadership through incremental increases in responsibility. I doubt very much we can say the consequences will break toward the positive. My guess is the “talent” will be imported from overseas, from the huge reserve of entrepreneurs and business leaders being created in developing nations like India and China. Which will leave many members of my generation stuck in the bottom rungs of the lower middle class. If we’re that lucky.