We all point to the pandemic as the start of an accelerated change for radio, as well as all of media, and many businesses. The evolution of media evolved quickly when the location of media usage changed. Much of the way in which people use radio has returned to its former patterns, being that it’s the commute-friendly medium, but that in itself isn’t enough to buoy an entire industry.
When your computer, your WIFI, your TV, or your Cable service is disrupted and not working properly, you reboot. We all need a reboot as we approach the new year. Personally, professionally and as a business. We need to flip the off-switch of our radio stations, wait three minutes, and flip it back on. Hit restart. Take advantage of this moment to make radio better.
Start by asking yourself … What’s the benefit to the audience to listen to your radio station? Is it to be informed, provide entertainment, have fun, create interest, provide news updates, commentary, relaxation, play the “hits”, air background music or other audio that is “white noise?” Is your station being used to create companionship? Why should anyone listen to what you’re offering?
The world continues to eschew actual radios for online listening. In auto, Smart Speakers, mobile, computers, via bytes of social media, podcasts that repurpose radio shows and connected to video. Because of this fact, every radio station in North America should consider Total Line Reporting (TLR) because the audience listens on multiple platforms. That is to say that I strongly believe you should be in a full-simulcast with what’s over the air onto all other platforms where you deliver audio.
Be conscious of the fact that if you’re not a full-on simulcast you are missing out on getting credit for the audiences that are hearing your station on other platforms. Your advertisers are paying full-boat for a product that no longer delivers 100% of the listening audience. Notice that I’ve not mentioned how poor some stations digital streams sound when they’re not 100% TLR. Until this mention, that is.
Make the product better. Connect the dots between content and where your audience listens. There comes a point, among really good programmers, that research, marketing, coaching talent, creating imaging, contesting, and building a strong format clock, are just a part of the cost-of-entry. I’ve sat in many meetings over the years where executives demand that the ratings improve, but they’re unwilling to make the necessary changes to improve them. Having better ratings is not your birthright. It doesn’t just happen.
Commercial loads … spot loads need to be lowered. We, as an industry, play too many minutes of commercials and we air too many units. We should give higher value to the live commercials we air and we should continue to sell and execute live appearances at a premium. Commercial production needs to improve. Promotional messages need to be viewed as if they’re commercials. Same as a promo for a podcast. The audience hears them as commercials.
On-Air Talent need to be personalities. No one needs a nice voice that lacks an engaging personality or strong content. Talents need to do better show prep, need to be aware of audience research, understand the art of performance as a personality versus being an announcer. Local versus national, as a debate, will continue to be argued. I can point to talent that voice-track into a market, from elsewhere, and they’re more entertaining and prepared than the locally live talent. It is a privilege to speak on the air today. Don’t take it for granted.
Be available when your audience is most available. Stations should look at their surge hours. When are the most listeners listening to your station during? That’s when you want you best talent on-the-air. That’s when you give away the biggest prizes. That’s when you air fewer commercials. That’s when you have the most critically important stories on spoken word stations and the biggest hits on music stations.
Creative “spur of the moment” programming should be the norm and not special. We should always be prepared to break format and do something entertaining or informative that encourages a listener to return listen to your station or to talk about your station to another potential listener. Those “talk about” moments are golden segments that should be replayed in promotional messages and talk about by other personalities on your station.
Unleash your creative animal. Create dynamic imaging. We’ve been doing that regularly with Benztown from Los Angeles. Develop unique ways to share messaging to the audience. Realize that how people use radio has changed. We have to change. We need a reboot as an industry.