Greetings From Nerdvana
July 13, 2012
I'm at Comic-Con... er, San Diego Comic-Con International (they prefer the full name). Are you?
Probably not. Most radio people aren't. There aren't a lot of radio people here, and that's a shame. This is, for a few days, the epicenter of popular culture, and it would be nice to have more radio representation here, assuming, that is, that radio is part of popular culture. Sometimes, I wonder.
But you really should be here. There are a few reasons that radio stations should find a way to participate in this event every year:
1. Nerd culture IS popular culture. Did you go see "The Avengers," or the new Spider-Man reboot, or have plans to see "The Dark Knight Rises"? Do you own a computer, or a smart phone, or an iPad? Do you watch "Game of Thrones, "or "Breaking Bad," or any of the other critically acclaimed shows on television? More to the point, do you have young people in your family who love things like "Twilight" or superhero movies? See? The nerds, they've taken over.
2. It's entertainment. Just talking about what it's like here is ripe material for radio talk. You've never seen the downtown area overrun by a convention like this before. I've been to a lot of large conventions in Vegas, and this is something entirely different. And it's not just that practically every venue in the Gaslamp and East Village districts are filled with people and reserved for special events. It's that there's a level of obsession that you won't see for anything else. Practically every panel draws massive lines. People start queuing up overnight to get into sessions the following afternoon. A lot of people. Too many people. I doubt I'm getting into any panels other than my own company's, and I'm not so sure of that.
3. There's money on the table. One of the shows that makes the effort to be here every year is KROQ's Kevin and Bean, and I was listening this morning while break after break featured sponsorships from NBC Universal. Those sponsorships, for the network's Fall shows, are directly related to the Comic-Con coverage, including a "wrap-up" show Monday with taped interviews. There's no reason other stations shouldn't be here, but I haven't seen much of it. Why more radio stations aren't doing this stuff, I don't know. We're an industry that sets up "radio rows" at events far less significant than this.
4. Relevance. How many times can you hear the same things at every NAB show? But new things are happening in the media, and many of the people who are making it happen are here, and at other events that radio shuns. Hey, I know two people who are here who used to be in traditional radio, started podcast networks, and developed national TV shows out of that. You talk a good game about looking for talent and new ideas, so why not make your presence known where the people with new ideas and talent are gathering?
5. You know how study after study says that young people aren't all that enamored with radio? It might make a good start to talk about things that those people like, and not in the condescending way that some shows are talking about this convention. ("It's all smelly Comic Book Guys! Ha ha! Look at the funny nerds!") Are there people wandering around in costumes? Yes. Are there some people who would fit the stereotypical nerd category? Sure. But they're all in your audience, at least potentially, and so are the vast majority of people here who aren't what you might think they are. Hey, I'm a cardâ€“carrying professional nerd, literally: the word "Nerdist" is on my business card. Do you want my business or not?
Now, in fairness, there are a couple of reasons why you might choose not to pay attention:
1. It's still a niche. For every "Avengers", there are the movies and shows that debut here and sink without a trace. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" was a big hit here. (But it was a pretty good movie nonetheless, so there's that.) That condescending attitude might also extend to part of your audience (although they all went to see "The Avengers" anyway).
2. You don't get it. THe nerd thing is a mystery to you. You beat up nerds in high school. Okay. (Well, not okay, but I've learned to forgive and forget, or at least forget) It's quite possible not to like the kind of media that's on display here. Let's be honest, nobody likes all of it. It's a collection of narrow interests, with a few big shows and movies offering a measure of collectivity. And if your wheelhouse is something like straight-ahead political talk for older folks, you're going to be stretching with some of the things you'll see here. (Although I would argue that popular culture is an important part of any show, even ones that tend to concentrate on the political. And by that token, this is where you should be.)
3. You can't stand things for which you have to stand in line to get In. Boy, would you hate this.
But forget Comic-Con in particular. Radio should be out in force wherever people gather, and not just with a canopy, a card table, and interns handing out bumper stickers and client coupons. Radio needs to come to things like this and show people that it cares about the same things they do, it needs to establish a bond, it needs to network itself and remind people of its relevance. While the CEOs tilt at windmills to get FM chips in cell phones under the delusion that it'll boost ratings 15% ("IT HAPPENED IN EUROPE!"), the rest of you should be paying close attention to the cultural changes that matter to your audience and matter to your careers. Or you could stay home and make the queue for the "Community" panel one person shorter. I'd be happy with that.
Okay, I gotta get back to it, so here's the standard plug: Talk Topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports offers lots of material for any kind of show; you'll find it by clicking here; all the topics are also linked on Twitter at @talktopics. You'll find the radio industry's first-best-most complete coverage at Net News, with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess.
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 (yes, this is why I'm at Comic-Con) over at Nerdist.com, and watch the videos on the Nerdist Channel at YouTube. Also pmsimon.com for the occasional flash of inspiration.
Next week, I'll be moderating a panel at The Conclave Learning Conference in Minneapolis. Will you be THERE? Really, you should be. Get out of the office for a few days, come on up, say hi. See you there.