CRS In Action: Radio As The Insurgent
February 9, 2016 at 3:03 PM (PT)
During TODAY's (2/9) COUNTRY RADIO SEMINAR (CRS) 2016 3p (CT) panel, "RADIO AS THE INSURGENT: WHAT IF THEY WERE HERE FIRST," moderator GREG LINDHAL guided CRS attendees in to a deeper discussion of broadcast radio's strengths and weakness as compared to digital and online music providers such as SPOTIFY, PANDORA, SIRIUSXM, and others.
As outlined in ALL ACCESS NASHVILLE Editor RJ CURTIS' recent column (THE VILLE 1/27), the premise of the panel was derived from a blog set forth by panelist and NUVOODOO MEDIA Co-Founder LEIGH JACOBS. Panelists joining the discussion alongside LINDHAL and JACOBS were UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI Head of Digital Media Division DR. JOHN OWENS, ARISTA NASHVILLE VP/Promotion LESLY SIMON, iHEARTCOUNTRY SVP/Programming ROD PHILLIPS, and KRTY/SAN JOSE GM NATE DEATON.
JACOBS began by sharing his thought process for the initial blog, indicating that broadcast radio as a medium has been the incumbant for so many years, that flipping the script to look at the competition as the incumbant may serve to bring forth new ideas on growth of both audience and revenue. OWENS shared information from a study done with his students, saying that the one thing everyone understands to be true of media in order to gain audience is, "Don't be boring." As shown in his student survey, the word associated most frequently with broadcast radio in the sampling was, unfortunately, "boring." So how can radio stand apart in the crowd and be viewed differently? "Be distinctive. Be authentic. Be fun," said OWENS.
DEATON echoed the sentiment, highlighting the impact radio can have on a wide-reaching platform. "If we say it's cool, then by GOD, it better be cool," said DEATON, who has 30-minute music meetings live on-air each week to share "cool" new music with listeners and introduce them to up-and-coming artists in the format. SIMON explained, from a label standpoint, that the ability for radio to connect fans with the format's artists is one of the most unique assets the platform has. "Everyone has the music," said SIMON.
But with broadcast radio's on-air personalities and the ability to make a genuine connection with the listenership, radio has the opportunity to become a friend to the listeners, who then feel like it is their very own friend with the ability to connect them to the artists they love. "Your friends can connect you to CARRIE UNDERWOOD," said SIMON. That ability to dive deeper and connect the audience to the artist is one that broadcast radio can offer above and beyond anything that non-traditional media can offer.
And those listeners are more than just an unknown grouping of people in your hot zips. DEATON shared that he does not refer to the audience as listeners, but as "fans." "You build fans by giving them access and being authentic," said DEATON. "It isn't important to be first. It is important to be best." PHILLIPS agreed, saying, "We're trying not to be late to the party" when it comes to new music, new media, and connectivity. PHILLIPS used iHEARTMEDIA syndicated morning personality BOBBY BONES as an example of a non-traditional radio voice who builds fans -- fans of the station, fans of the show, and fans of the format's artists. BONES becomes the friend on-air, and as SIMON previously explained, is the friend with all the connections to everyone's favorite artists.
How can radio become continually more innovative in its approach to content and "fan" engagement? "You just have to get it," said PHILLIPS, adding that whether you are a personality new to the airwaves or have been in the format for 30-plus years, you have to look at the ever-changing landscape and adapt. DEATON concurred, noting, "Our product is still music. And we don't have to change; the music changes for us. And we need to evolve with that."
Unfortunately, the panel agreed that recruiting talent to broadcast radio has become more challenging as the influx of new and digital media options has expanded in recent years. "It's a rare thing when I have a student who says, 'I want to go into broadcast radio,'" said OWENS. "We talk about training multi-platform storytellers. They have to be comfortable with technology. They have to have it all." He also suggested that broadcast radio look inward when shaping talent and creating ideas for station growth. "Any start-up is contantly doing research and development," said OWENS. "Build your own incubator. Give people a chance to bring out new ideas. You have to give people a platform to try new things."
In summation, the panel concluded that radio has to continue its focus on delivering local information wrapped in entertaining, engaging content. Building your brand across the airwaves and continuing it on to social media and digital outlets, then taking it to the street, will cultivate a strong fanbase, who then see you as the friend with connections. Country radio is replete with artists who desire to build a connection with their fans, and Country radio can provide that introduction between artists and fans in a way no other form of media currently can. The key? Don't be boring. Be distinctive; be authentic; be fun.