It's All About Mobile
July 15, 2011
I was in a ballroom in a hotel in Minneapolis Thursday morning, at a table safely in the deep back corner, all set up to report on the Conclave Learning Conference, when the table filled up with local college students, there to learn and network themselves into lucrative careers in the exciting world of radio. Something like that, anyway. They all glanced my way, then ignored me, because they did not know who I am. For all they knew, I was some local vagrant who'd happened into the room while searching for shelter and a place to plug in a MacBook Pro.
So I was surrounded by young people. And I noticed that they were not exclusively focused on the speakers in the room. No, they were more intently focused on their cell phones. They were texting. They were surfing the Net. They were surreptitiously calling friends on the other side of the room to get the friends' phones to ring. They were all about their phones.
This is nothing you don't know. And it's not exclusive to college-age people. At lunch, everyone placed their phones on the table the moment they sat down. At dinner, the same thing. In the lobby, kids and adults alike were brandishing their phones. It's all about mobile. It really is.
So that means you need to be on that phone, right? Yes, you do. But it's not just that you need to run out and get an app together so you have an icon on those phones. You also need to understand that there's one more distraction for your listeners. You've always been competing with distractions, but this one's taking distraction to a new level. People in social situations pick up their phones and stare at them right in the middie of a conversation. If they'll do that to someone standing directly in front of them, how will your station stand a chance to grab their attention? It won't, unless you're giving them something that demands their attention. Talk radio isn't meant to be a background format. You don't need another distraction to divert their minds, but you have one. Take that fact, and what we've seen from the PPM measurements, and the conclusion is simple: More than ever, you can't afford to be less than compelling and entertaining and energetic and interesting every moment you're on the air. However you do it, you have to grab a piace of your listeners' attention and hold onto it. That's hard, but it's necessary. If that means killing off the wonkery and the deadly boring interviews with politicians, well, you gotta do what works. Maybe you should try this: Take an aircheck of your show, or a show you produce or a show on the station you program. Sit down and listen. And mark how long it takes before you reach for your phone to check emails or send a text or check the weather. When you do that, note what you're doing at that time on the air. And whatever's on the air at that moment, stop doing it.
Now, excuse me... I think my phone is vibrating....
Next week should be back to a more normal schedule after last week's down-time and this week's travel interruptions. You can still, however, find plenty of stuff to talk about at All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column Talk Topics, which is here, and on Twitter at @talktopics. This week, you'll also find "10 Questions With..." Jason Barrett, who recently left 101 ESPN in St. Louis, where he built quite a success story, for Entercom's new FM Sports station in San Francisco, KBWF (SportsRadio 95.7FM). After that, check out last week's "10 Questions With..." New Jersey 101.5 and Millenium Radio News Director Eric Scott, and then read all the best industry coverage at Net News, with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess. And, unrelated to All Access, you can follow me on Twitter at @pmsimon, read my stuff at Nerdist.com, and peruse my personal website at pmsimon.com.
Okay, back to the convention. If you're here in Minneapolis for the Conclave, stop by the producers' panel at 10 am Saturday, which will be moderated by me. I know you can't wait.