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The Farm Team

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal focused on televisions new approach to use Over the Air (OTA) TV to train talent and expose shows in order to build a fan base, before moving them to pay-per-view streaming. The headline screamed “TV Networks Have a New Role; Farm Teams for Streaming Shows.” It not only piqued my interest, but it made me aware of a paradigm shift happening in video that has happened in radio, and could be magnified and expanded. That is focusing on radio shows to push to podcasting and podcasting to push to radio. All while training talent.

There are a few examples of podcasts that have developed into radio shows. Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino at Westwood One come to mind. Clay Travis was a well-known radio host in Nashville and the founder and creator of the site Out Kick the Coverage, before he teamed-up with Buck Sexton and they joined Premiere Networks. Joe Rogan becoming a multimedia superstar is an example of a New Media star spawned from podcasting.

These high-profile examples are the exception and not the rule. They do shine a spotlight on the fact that there is no longer credence in the often-used argument that radio lost its’ farm team when it did away with overnights and weekends. If our industry is dependent on only finding talent on the fringe timeslots of radio, or only in the smallest of markets, then we’re destined to remain largely mediocre. If Shakespeare was accurate when he wrote “The world is your oyster” then the future is bright and there is much opportunity. One has to look for it.

Much like OTA TV being used as a farm team for streaming video, today’s farm team is podcasting, social media, college broadcasting & media programs, marketing classes, radio trade schools, the National Radio Talent System (Powered by the RAB), comedy clubs, speaker’s bureaus, and of course small market radio stations and training talent in a fringe daypart.

Open your ears to wherever you find entertainment and close your eyes to hear if you can imagine the talent being evaluated as a host on the radio. Have you ever been at a party where there’s that one person that others gravitate toward just to be near them? They’re listening intently to their stories, laughing and offering their own comments, and the feeling is noticeably pleasant. That’s the type of person to look for and to engage with to see if they have the ability to entertain audibly on the radio.

TV itself has been a source of rich soil to find talent that are already grown, but radio is a much more difficult medium than television. It’s one thing to look good, sound good, and be able to deliver in a natural fashion that which is being spoken into your ear, but it’s another to be able to be extemporaneous, paint a picture with words and engage an audience using only the sense of sound.

To that end, veteran programmer an radio icon John Gehron once suggested to me that before hiring a TV personality for radio, I should have them audition daily for several weeks in a row. Literally role play for multiple weeks and see if they can really execute as a radio personality. One side benefit was that I also learned which talent were truly committed and which ones decided that “radio is just too hard.”

The bottom-line is that searching for talent, training talent, prospecting for talent, is a 24/7 mission. Today’s farm team is everywhere. There are actually more opportunities for talent to be trained and more places where they can get experience. The question is can they make a living in today’s radio industry? That’s an entirely different topic, but the best do make the most.

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