March 1930 Radio News
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio &
Television News, published 1919 - 1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
"Are we killing the broadcasting goose, layer of many golden eggs?"
Dr. Lee de Forest asked in his inaugural address, upon his election to
the presidency of the Institute of Radio Engineers. So went the opening
editorial in a 1930 edition of Radio News magazine. It was directed
at the question of whether excessive, "gratuitous" advertising was going
to be so offensive to listeners that they would turn off the set and
go back to their former silent worlds. Remember that many, if not most,
households, and certainly not automobiles, even had radios at the time.
Building an audience was essential to nurturing the new phenomenon of
radio, and to saturate the listeners with commercials would surely doom
the medium. Dr. de Forest would be truly depressed if he could see the
commercial broadcast landscape today with it consisting of 15-20% advertising
content and much of the rest filled with political and social subliminal
and overt messaging.
The Broadcasting Goose
we killing the broadcasting goose, layer of many golden eggs?" Dr. Lee
De Forest asked in his inaugural address, upon his election to the presidency
of the Institute of Radio Engineers. Are we? The question has already
aroused much controversy among radio broadcasters and in the newspapers.
And Radio News urges its readers to consider - what is excessive radio
advertising going to do to radio?
Advertisers were not slow to make the acquaintance of the broadcasting
goose, and to appropriate their share of its golden eggs. A magazine
or newspaper reader may deliberately let his eye slip over the "ads,"
if he is so inclined, but a radio "listener-in" is taken by surprise,
and hears large amounts of gratuitous advertising, whether he wants
to or not. In the earlier days of radio such announcements were usually
of short duration, simple and concise. The listener understood, without
any more ado, that a certain company had been presenting him with a
program out of the kindness of its own heart. The listener was usually
grateful, or at least did not cavil at this information.
But today advertising announcements over the radio have expanded
to almost unbearable dimensions. The average layman, comfortably listening
to an evening's program, is told at the end not only who the senders
of that program are, and the name of the product which they manufacture,
but also a thousand and one superfluous and-from his point of view -
The listener, however, has become canny. With
the first sign of an overloaded advertising announcement he arises from
his chair and crosses the room, grinning craftily, to turn the dial
to another program. Or, if his radio is remote controlled, he can switch
the program and grin craftily without rising from his chair.
In other words. the radio advertiser today is fast defeating his
own purpose. He has become too greedy - too avaricious. He has lost
sight of the principal object of broadcasting - the presentation of
a program. He is on the way to becoming a megalomaniac. And he is demonstrating
very poor psychology.
The broadcasters themselves, and a few advertisers, have mastered
this psychology, as is evidenced by their programs in which a mere mention
of the sponsorship is made. But the majority of advertisers follow one
of two annoying methods - either the frequent breaking into a program
with their announcements, or continual references to their own products
woven into the program itself.
The general excellence of sponsored programs with their diversified
presentations is undoubtedly responsible for the widespread acceptance
of radio and its engineering development. But the whole thing is becoming
too much like the old fairy story of the little girl who had to eat
her way through a world of soup. It was very good soup, but there was
too much of it. Our radio programs are presented by very good advertisers,
but we have to hear too much about them, Direct advertising by broadcasters
is ceasing to build good-will. Unless something is speedily done to
remedy this situation, it is going to promote animosity and active dislike.
Where does the solution of this problem lie? Not with the listeners-in
- they have already found their solution - turning the dial. Will it
be necessary for the broadcasting stations to restrict and censor the
advertising given them?
That would be unfortunate indeed, and should not be the case. No
- in our opinion the solution lies with the advertisers themselves.
It is time for them to summon their good sense and to make a careful
survey of the ground on which they stand. If radio advertising is to
regain a position of value for both the advertisers and listeners-in,
it must be censored by the advertiser himself! He must learn the psychological
value and increased effectiveness of short and simple announcements.
He must realize that he cannot pamper and overstuff his pretty goose,
or there will be no more golden eggs.
Stuart C. Mahanay
Posted May 2, 2014