I Don't Have Time For This
May 25, 2012
Sorry. Can't talk much now. Don't have time.
I have work to do. I'm on the computer and on the phone and there's just not enough time in the day. You know what I'm... what? Radio? Oh, it's on, i think. Yeah, it's on. What station? I don't know, talk or something. I'm not paying att... oh, uh, the other line's ringing. Gotta go.
Forget all the talk about new media and social media and streaming and podcasts for a moment. Your new world isn't just your new audio entertainment competition. It's the sensory overload of everyday life. That's what's competing for your listeners' attention.
Look at a typical listener's day. When he or she wakes up, you might get a moment or two on the clock radio, and then you're competing with TV morning news blocks or "SportsCenter," and the quick glance at email and the local paper's website. In the car, while we wait for apps to become commonplace on the dash, you're competing with the cell phone, maybe an iPod, the venti latte in the cup holder, the GPS, the traffic. At the office, there's work, email, idle checks of websites and fantasy sports results and lottery numbers. At the gym, there are HDTVs on every cardio machine, and people-watching to distract from that, and emails and texts flashing on the phone everyone props in front of them. At home, more Internet perusing, TV, cooking, family, and a million more things. Where does radio fit into that?
Of course, it's always been that way -- people are busy, and they've always had things to do that conflict with paying a lot of attention to the radio. But people have never multitasked as they do now. I may be atypical, but there are times when, all at once, I'm working on the computer, I have an iPad next to it streaming a ball game, I'm scribbling schedule notes on a legal pad (analog!), I'm on the phone, and, murmuring from a radio or a stream on the computer, there's a talk or sports show. Plus, I'm checking Twitter, Facebook, and texts. Does that radio show have any chance at all to cut through and get my attention?
Well, yes, it does, but it's harder than ever. I can remember when I'd listen to, say, Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh and the show was always foreground -- I'd be working but paying attention to what they were saying. Now, there are SO many other things going on that I just can't make the radio show the focal point of the moment. I can multitask with the best of 'em, but I have my limits. And I still have to make time to hear a backlog of podcasts and recorded radio shows, because that's what I do. There isn't enough time in the day for all of it.
What does this mean? A few things:
1. You have to be compelling blah blah blah. You know this already. If you haven't been doing talk radio that cuts through the noise and compels people to pay attention from the very beginning of your career, you've wasted your time. What's true about content today was true in 1961. It's always been true. Create great content. This should not be a revelation to you by now.
2. Be everywhere. That means that when your listeners are perusing their Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed, you need to be there, with content that reminds them you're on the radio and doing a show worth hearing. And that doesn't mean a stream of self-promotion, either -- it means sharing your personality and thoughts in a way that makes your followers and "Friends" feel closer to you. Rather than explain to you exactly how to do that, I'd rather just advise you to go look at your own timelines and news feeds and see which posts make YOU want to hear more from that person. Learn by example.
3. Talk radio's always been positioned as a "foreground" medium -- listeners, we've told advertisers, put us top-of-mind, unlike music radio, which can be relegated to the background while people do other things. That's no longer precisely correct, because everything is now on one very crowded level. Work, Internet, video, radio, lunch, everything people do is bombarding them with information. The only way to cut through that is to... refer back to number 1. Create great content. Same as it ever was. But don't assume your audience is hanging on your every word. You gotta earn that.
Now, I gotta do the plugs and finish up. Time's at a premium.
One way to create great content is to find unusual and interesting topics and put your own particular twist on them. You're responsible for the perspective, but you can find the topic ideas, hundreds of them, at Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, and it's all free. You'll find it by clicking here; all the topics are also linked on Twitter at @talktopics. Don't forget the radio industry's first-best-most complete coverage at Net News, with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess. And this week, we do another "10 Questions With..." Walter Sabo, catching up on his always provocative views on talk radio and, yes, last year's start-up experience is included. Definitely worth a read.
Follow me on Twitter and Facebook with my personal accounts at @pmsimon and www.facebook.com/pmsimon, read the pop culture stuff I write and edit over at Nerdist.com, and watch the videos on the Nerdist Channel at YouTube.
Let's do one more request for donations to the Revlon Run/Walk for Women before I close it down for the year. It's for research into the cause and cure of women's cancers and prevention, education and support service programs, and my wife Fran (six year survivor) and I appreciate your support. And there's still time to donate: go to do.eifoundation.org/goto/pmsimon2012. Thank you!
Have a great Memorial Day weekend.