Is Your Radio Station Missing Out on Half of the Internet's Power?
February 3, 2015
Behold, the history of media...
In the beginning, there was conversation. People conversed in small groups. This type of communication was two-way: people both talked and listened to each other. But it was limited because you could only reach small groups of people at a time.
The inventions of the printing press, radio, and television gave rise to mass media. For the first time, it was possible to communicate with large audiences. Unlike conversation, however, this type of communication was one-way: publishers and broadcasters could talk to the masses, but they could not listen to them.
Then came the internet, and social media in particular. Social media is significant for a multiple reasons. First, it democratized broadcasting. No longer did it require large organizations, significant budgets, and lots of equipment to communicate with the masses; individuals can now do it with relatively little money and gear.
But even more significantly, social media combined the reach of mass media with the two-way nature of conversation. In other words, it's not just that anybody with an internet connection can talk to the masses; anybody can listen to the masses, too. Social media introduced mass listening for the first time.
This is new.
And your radio station needs to adapt to reflect this.
As broadcasters, too often we talk to the masses without listening. We define ourselves as the broadcasters, and everybody else as the listeners. Implicit in those terms is the idea that we don't have to do any listening. But if we don't, we will cease to be part of the conversation.
All too often, I hear radio stations that clearly aren't listening to their audience. Instead of reacting to the conversations that are happening in their own community, they ramble on about things that aren't important outside the walls of their own studios. These stations are easy to identify: they ramble on about their 20-song marathons, their upcoming station concerts, and their contests for Disneyland tickets. It's unfortunate how frequently discussions of the hot topics of the day are confined solely to the morning show.
These are not the things that your audience is talking about. Why are you?
Your station sounds like the guest at the party that never asks anybody else how they are doing. Instead, he just talks about himself. Rather than contributing to ongoing conversations, he always tries to start his own. This may have been acceptable in the past, when there were fewer media outlets and radio could drive the conversation. But now that mass listening is possible, your radio station should be listening to its listeners and talking about the things that they want to talk about.
Every radio station's on-air talent needs to learn how to listen to the masses. In the age of trending topics, social media searches, and RSS feeds, nobody needs an expensive show prep service to keep up with popular culture. Listening to the masses is easy and inexpensive…if you know how.
Instead of overstuffing clocks with station liners and promotional announcements, radio stations should provide their airstaffs with the opportunities and the breathing room to engage in these conversation on air. Don't restrict discussion of popular topics to only one daypart. In short, talk to your listeners, not at them.