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Tim Moore

The Third Dimension, and
What We Can Borrow From Jim Collins




Since Good to Great swept onto the scene, good managers and companies have sought ascension to “great.” If only the sheer will to effectuate this leap was enough. Alas, radio companies are finding that traditional benchmarks of “great” are elusive and incomplete.

Consider the original validation for general market radio success: ratings and revenue. This duo reflected easily measured empirical data. One without the other meant “not good,” and certainly never “great.”

Today, the two pronged bell-weather for radio success has become clouded by the reality of our times: dollar input versus dollar output, and the return per dollar-spent. Non commercial public and Christian brands are measured by fundraising, though more and more are taking ratings seriously and realizing they can compete. In a standard cluster of commercial stations, the gap between good and advanced performance rides on non-empirical measurement. This missing piece of subjective aesthetics appears to be confusing many companies, leading to performance frustration.

Management coming from a historically process-oriented background struggles for a connection to the concept that says, “Even though your field leadership may exist in a diffused setting, you can create the climate which distinguishes the difference between conventional and acceptable goals, and inordinate “greatness.” The breakdown occurs when companies are either too anxiety-saturated by financial models, or simply lack the awareness of what we refer to as “The Third Dimension” required for greatness beyond ratings.

Radio’s “Third Dimension” Defined

One day in the history of legendary KVIL Dallas/Fort Worth, group programming architect George Johns went over to Neiman Marcus and asked to buy a mannequin. Then, he asked an attendant in the women’s department to dress the mannequin in fashionable attire. George placed his newly acquired friend in the KVIL studio replete with a sign hanging around the mannequin’s neck that said, “Convince me!

Radio has always played music, unless of course the format is a spoken-word brand. Radio has always sold its music as an identity, and when its music brand created ratings, it sold those too, based on quantitative return. To accomplish this process, radio needed two essential components, aside from its physical assets: songs to be played, and jocks to facilitate them. Some stations and companies were more effective than others, but typically, the execution of a format was largely due to the leadership within the halls.

The report card was simple: ratings + revenue = the corners of the manager’s mouth pointing up.

But with consolidation demand for more yield, more complex structure within a building or a company (often merging two or three former competitors with lingering animosity under a new tent), plus fewer resources of every kind, suddenly radio could no longer afford the luxury of two dimensions in its programming scheme, much less three. Today, a high percentage of today’s cluster programmers are stuck in a monochromatic world with station talent delivering one-way, non-reciprocal messages from the control room-out, with all of the warmth of flight announcements at LAX.

The Third Dimension is based on this proposition:

Even though ratings and revenue remain two critical barometers of success, “greatness” can only be claimed when leadership creates a culture of consensus-building among the staff, to create a total listening climate that goes far beyond the songs and talent themselves.

At least 75 percent of radio stations coast-to-coast, regardless of market size, insist in sustaining sonic packaging from the past, with all of the élan of announcing school hot lunch menus.  Talent is seldom coached under a set of parameters mutually accepted by the program director and their talent. The “wall-of-jock” continues, manifested in words and phrases listeners never did embrace, much less relate with in today’s ‘Me’ environment.

Sittin’ in with ya on a Saturday (heard recently in Tampa)


Comin’ up next hour…


More music on-the-way from_______


Want more details? Call 1-800-boring…


Keep it right here (or else?)


Straight up four o’clock….


That’s music from_____


We’ll be right back after we pay some bills…


This is but an appetizer on the long list of one-way, disempowering station-speak that has been left in the dust by time and reality.

The Third Dimension requires another tangible, measurable, and necessary element in station greatness: sound crafting away from radio, and toward “companionship.” Only companies who can hear the difference and accept the commitment and consequences can play!

This will require:

(1) Competent programming leadership with “hearing” and insatiable appetite for going

      where radio has seldom gone, and then, only in limited incursions. KVIL (Dallas Ft. 

      Worth) understood this in 1977.  Magic 98 (Madison) got it in the 80’s, and gets it

      today. KBCO “had it” from day one and never let go. WAVA did it very well. These

      exceptional stations became--to hijack a phrase--entertainment stations as opposed to

      format radio.

(2) Non-negotiable company standards that require all clusters and stations to seek the

      Third Dimension, moving performance to work from the listener back, instead of

      from the control room-forward.

(3) A process that endows a mandate to address The Third Dimension, and the culture

      to achieve it. This means staff development ideas for coaching highly tangible

      measurement of a seemingly intangible standard. It can be done, and some stations

      are practicing the process day-in, day-out. System + commitment + skill = great.

(4) The complete buy-in of a “culturalization” flying into the headwind of radio

      econometrics. A minimum investment of time, effort, and resource are the ticket

      for admission. Unless we agree to the need, then commit to the process, it doesn’t



Iconic UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had it right: A little better today than yesterday.


Rebellious Creativity

The absence of money or expertise is not an excuse for accepting “good enough is good enough,” though it’s routinely viewed that way.

The Third Dimension of “great radio” goes beyond the songs, beyond the imaging, beyond the jingles, logo, web page and marketing. In fact, it goes beyond conventional imagination. 

           *Talent coaching on a weekly basis, with scored performance, and outside

               exhibits of people doing it “great.” Talent must expect it, PDs must require it.


           *Lessons in writing promos first-person and for “eye contact” under a cluster

              standard of “different and better.” Promo writing and production nationally gets

              a C-plus grade at best. 50% of a great promo starts with the word processor.


           *Imaging that is listener empowering, coming from benefits, instead of

             station attributes. There is a difference between the two.


           *Morning shows that come from listener inclusion, with actors and cast members

              who actually turn and face their audience speaking to them singularly.


           *Talk-points that speak in word pictures, and deliver emotional content

              as opposed to radio babble (the equivalent of bringing sand to the beach).


So, which would you rather hear your midday talent say today?


                      On the way next hour, some music from Aerosmith.

                      The Police and the Stones on 99.9 KADG




In the next twenty minutes…emotions are sweet, every breath will be watched, and some Puerto Rican girls are just dyin’ to meet cha…on 99.9 KADG


No company can get a hall pass to “great” without relentlessly chasing a layer of execution not found on most stations and formats. It is truly not crowded at the top, if for no other reason than many radio cultures are not prepared to put the values and processes in place to get there.

Audience Development Group believes that some tenets for “great” never change with the passage of time. Exceptional sound-crafting fits into our model of the “Brand Depth Pyramid.” Picture this pyramid on your desk surface: the base component must necessarily be music accuracy, accounting for 40% of the substance from the base-up.

The next layer comprising 20% of the Brand Depth Pyramid comes from morning show success: fit, relevance, casting and market-wide recognition. The remaining 40% stacks a confluence of station-wide “pharmaceutical atmosphere” (it makes listeners feel better), created by talent, imaging and external marketing.

Unlike other endeavors, radio requires creativity over resource, innovation over years in rank. So, even relatively new and basic companies, can make a conscious decision to rise to the rare air of The Third Dimension, assuming they can hear it, desire it, and will settle for nothing less.

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Tim Moore is a managing partner with Audience Development Group.






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