Trust But Mortify, plus Teaching New Tricks To Old Dogs
February 15, 2013
I was all set to write about the coverage of the Christopher Dorner stand off, and the prank call, and then other things came up and I decided that I could dispose of all of that in a couple of sentences. So, here goes: 1) If you don't want to get pranked, you can at least tell someone calling in unsolicited that you'll call them back. That's not fool-proof, numbers and caller ID can be spoofed, but at least it's better than slamming a call onto the air without verifying at all. 2) There were two different styles of reporting on the incident on the radio here in L.A., and I thought both had merit -- the all-news station did things by the book with reporters and official information, and the talk station was taking eyewitness calls and monitoring all the local TV coverage and police scanners, putting out the raw information as it happened. It was pretty riveting, especially the latter, because it truly conveyed the chaotic nature of the situation. And it illustrated what I've said before, that radio is best when it's immediate. Listening to the coverage in the car, I ended up sitting in a parking lot listening to the coverage instead of getting out and going into Trader Joe's. The shopping had to wait.
Okay, that's one topic. The other one is something that you'll see in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, or you can read it now here, an article about young Republicans aghast that the party establishment, even after losing the election, is resistant to embracing social media and a more youth-friendly image. I'll leave the politics out of it and let you debate the specifics of the message and of young people's reception of individual policy points. The larger issue is that it points out that, while the Obama campaign was aggressively using Twitter and put the President on Reddit doing an IAmA, Romney's campaign leaders were shunning Twitter and probably couldn't tell you what Reddit is or an IAmA is and didn't care (and, in assembling a team to do a post-mortem on the loss, they picked a bunch of party stalwarts who aren't really new media mavens). You can argue that this wasn't the reason for the election loss, that there were other reasons -- political, demographical, whatever -- but there's clearly a generation gap that the party needs to address.
And that's an issue for talk radio, and radio in general. Radio is, right now, Dad's medium. Forget the numbers that the industry will trot out to show that, say, 137% of all teens listen to radio 743 hours a week; that's not even relevant to how advertising and marketing will work in the future, or, for an increasing number of clients, how it works now. Radio's image is old. Young people think it plays too many commercials, and, for them, ONE commercial might be too many. And it's marketed, mostly, in an old-fashioned way, which brings me back to Reddit.
Do you know what Reddit is, or how it works? Judging by how little I see about radio there, I'm betting that the answer is no, yet it's one of the biggest drivers of Internet traffic you will find today and has been for quite some time. But it's not something where you can go brazenly market yourself -- it's a community, it's self-policing, and obvious marketing is going to be shunned and ostracized. Yet that's where videos really go viral, where memes get launched, and you need to know about it, use it, and get used to it. (Oh, and IAmA? "I'm a (insert occupation here). Ask Me Anything." Really, go read some, they can be fascinating.)
Same for Twitter. You know what that is, but how are you using it? If you're just posting what's next on your station or contest solicitations, you're wasting your time. On the other hand, posting things that give followers a taste of your personality -- the hosts' personality and the station's personality -- will help forge a bond. And following your followers right back creates a bond that's unique in social media. The numbers may be small, but you're going for quality, not quantity, and if you get a bunch of opinion leaders in your market engaged and interacting with you, that's worth a lot. And it's free, so there's that.
All of this is to say that you can't be Dad anymore. Demographics are changing, media consumption is changing, advertising markets are changing. You need to know where the next wave of listeners are, and be there with them. You know, talk radio doesn't HAVE to be for senior citizens.
All right, it's late, so here's a very quick plug for All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column Talk Topics, with hundreds of stories and comments compiled with radio in mind, available by clicking here for the full column or going to Twitter at @talktopics, where you'll find every story linked to the appropriate item. It's all free. And don't miss "10 Questions With..." KPEL and KROF-A/Lafayette, LA host and Brand Manager (that's the new name for PD these days) Jeremy Lawrence.
You can also follow my personal Twitter account at @pmsimon, and find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pmsimon. And there's my other job: I edit and write for the Nerdist.com website, so if you're into pop culture -- movies, comics, TV, "genre" stuff -- come on by.
I didn't even touch on using YouTube or your website and SEO, which means I can squeeze another column out of "what you should be doing." Maybe next week.