Some News, All The Time
August 17, 2012
Sometimes, it's the little things that matter.
I was driving home from a meeting up in Santa Monica yesterday, and I had the radio on, trying to catch some news, traffic, and sports. The sports report came on. They gave the Dodgers score, the Padres score, an Angels preview, and then, instead of the rest of the baseball scores, this:
"For all the scores, go to (station's call letters).com."
Sure, I'll just open my browser and... no, wait, I'M DRIVING. I want the scores, not just the local ones, and I used to be able to get them in radio sports reports, but now it's been reduced to "you want scores? Go to our website."
I CAN'T GO TO YOUR (expletive deleted) WEBSITE! I'M IN A VOLVO WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING IN A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405! GIVE ME WHAT I WANT! NOW!
And that's something we -- I include myself in this -- forget when we make, or heed, all the suggestions to incorporate websites and Twitter and Facebook into radio shows. A significant amount of listening is done while the listener isn't in a position to drop everything and go to the Net. We're driving. We're working. We're cooking dinner. We're exercising. Multitasking is common, but so is an inability to multitask.
Let me be clear: Radio still needs to use social media. Radio needs to drive listeners to social media and vice versa. It's still a very necessary component of a media business in 2012. The problem is understanding how to use each element, and when sloughing off programming elements to other media might be counterproductive. There's a difference between inviting people to participate by interacting with the station on Twitter or Facebook, or putting information that isn't critical to a news story on the web and directing people to that, and taking essential programming -- in that case, the scores of baseball games happening at that moment -- and pushing that information to the web instead. That saves, what, 20 seconds of precious air time, but doesn't give the large portion of your listenership that can't at that moment consult the website the information for which they came to you.
Sitting in a traffic jam on a freeway, a listener has limited or no access to other media. Even the "connected dashboard" won't really fix that, since you can't exactly surf the web while your car is in motion (or, more precisely, you can't safely operate the car when surfing the web, and that includes when they're able to project the websites onto your Augmented Reality windshields). At that moment, I had an expectation that the station to which I was listening would provide me with current information, as promoted. Sports report? I want a complete report. News? Give me the headlines I need. Traffic? Okay, you can't necessarily cover everything in a market that stretches from the Pacific Ocean halfway to Arizona, but you'd better cover the biggest trouble spots.
Tell me that you have the information I want but I'll have to go read it on your website? (Expletive deleted) you. And if I DO have to go to the web to see how the Phillies managed to lose today, or why the freeway I'm on is at a standstill, am I going to go to YOUR website? Probably not. I'll go to MLB.com or ESPN.com or someplace I associate with sports scores, or Google Maps or an app for the traffic. So you've failed to provide me with what I want AND you won't get me using your Internet product, either. I'm sure that's exactly what your consultants envisioned when they parsed PPM data to the second and decided that giving a few out-of-town scores would instantly drive all listeners away.
Use websites and social media in conjunction with your on-air product, by all means. But if you intend to use online destinations to cover essential things your listeners expect to hear on the air, you're going to frustrate the people who can't just drop everything to get that information while they're behind the wheel, or at the office, or in the kitchen. Or maybe it was just my frustration of being on the 405 in rush hour with no A/C, thinking about the Phillies' futility. Either way, I didn't get what I wanted out of the experience. And I know better now than to wait through spots for those sports and traffic reports.
I'm not, however, going to keep you waiting -- there's one awful, awkward segue for you -- to get to the plug for Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, where you know you'll find plenty of material for radio shows of all kinds. Click here for the complete cavalcade, and follow Talk Topics at Twitter at @talktopics for direct links to every entry. Also, you'll find "10 Questions With..." Fox Sports Radio evening co-host Rob Dibble, following up on last week's chat with his co-host Amy Van Dyken, plus, as always, you'll find industry news first/fastest/best at Net News, which you can also follow on Twitter at @allaccess.
I have more thoughts on this issue, and for those, go to www... Nah, just kidding. It's all here. And I have no more thoughts. It's the weekend, after all.