New Dog, Old Tricks
June 21, 2013
So, a bunch of radio folks, including myself, gathered Thursday in San Diego for the hivio conference organized by Mark Ramsey and Jaime Solis, with a lot more watching online, and the concept was to bring like-minded, forward-thinking radio people together to hear and interact with people from outside the industry, both from new media and from companies grappling with the digital age. It might surprise those of you who think I only go to conventions to complain and tweet MST3K-style heckling that I actually liked this one, because much of the content did not duplicate what I've heard a zillion times before at radio conventions, because it brought in some people who aren't generally at radio conventions, and because it was reasonably close to home. Hey, sometimes all the travel gets to me.
Anyway, I won't recount the details of the conference -- you can read the coverage at Net News, or go back and read my tweets (they're the ones before Manu Ginobli makes an unfortunate appearance) -- but I will talk a little about one thing that struck me, and it came from comments Gabe Hobbs made asking questions after one of the segments. He noted the antipathy of "new media" people towards "old media," and he suggested that there's a lot of expertise that people from radio can offer those in the digital realm. Similarly, when I asked Mike Hodges of U-T San Diego about his newspaper's rebranding (it used to be the Union-Tribune and renamed the paper and its website after its colloquial nickname) and whether there was thought that even the suggestion of the old name might bring with it "old media" baggage, he responded that the Union and Tribune names also brought with it a long heritage of news that they didn't want to blow up.
That got me thinking about my own experience in new media, with podcasters and streamers. There is, in many cases, resistance to input from those whose experience comes from "old media," whether it's radio or television or print. Most of it seems to carry with it the unspoken suggestion that old media types can't possibly "get" the new world, that the new media are so impossibly different from the old that there's nothing to be learned from past experience. We got this, they're insinuating. Don't need your formatics and rules and stuff. And, well, yes, a lot of radio people WOULD try to apply rules that don't apply to podcasts and streaming, and they DON'T get it. But that's not universal, and my own experience with podcasters has been that there's a lot that experienced radio people CAN offer to help new media people, even in video and for online writing. It's all communication, after all, and if you know how to best get your points across, that skill is transferable. Likewise, if you can recognize and develop talent -- I know, that skill seems to have disappeared from radio, but SOME people still have it -- you should be able to apply that to different media.
It doesn't change that tension between the new guard and the old, though. What both sides have to understand is that the divisions are artificial. Are radio and podcasting and streaming and, for that matter, online video and broadcast television and cable different media? Yes. But that's a concern for the people who own the antennae and transmitters and licenses and pipes. For content creators, it's different. It's a matter of taking your creativity and applying it to the tools at hand. Some people are better with audio, some with video, some in print, but it's, at heart, communication and entertainment. Old media can learn from the new folks about their experience with what works and what doesn't in the new delivery systems -- for example, how long is optimal for video or podcasts, or what kinds of video are more likely to pile up immediate views and which work better for a slower, steady, solid audience build -- and the new guys can find out from radio people what verbal crutches to avoid, how to pace a segment to keep people hanging on, what kind of topics are poison and which work, that kind of thing and more. Just leave the Arbitron-directed gimmicks and the phony Wacky Zoo Stunt stuff behind, because those aren't gonna fly.
The lesson for everyone is, I think, that defining yourself as "radio" or even as "podcaster" or "new media" and disdaining the "other side" is self-defeating. The goal is the same, even if the delivery mechanism and monetization methods aren't. Unless you're invested -- literally -- in the medium itself, you're a content producer. It shouldn't matter which medium got you here.
No matter whether you're a radio host or a podcaster or a video star, and no matter what the format, if you talk for a living, there's material just waiting for you at All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column Talk Topics, where there are hundreds of stories and comments and stupid jokes and stuff ready to be deployed. See what's there by clicking here for the full column or going to Twitter at @talktopics, where you'll find every story linked to the appropriate item. And while you're there, read "10 Questions With..." WXDE (Delaware 105.9) afternoon host Jared Morris, who talks about building a local buzz and the way he's differentiating his show from the standard political fare.
I was going to tell you that there wouldn't be a column next week because of the holiday, but then I realized that the holiday's the week AFTER next. So there WILL be a column. It'll be about... oh, who am I kidding? I'll figure that out at the last second, like I do every week. Talk to you then.