Old New Media, Throwing In The Towel, and Other Random Thoughts
August 2, 2013
It's one of those weeks I've told you about before -- the ones where I get, like, three-quarters of the way through writing a column and then, for whatever reason, decide that it doesn't work, and I trash it. This tends to happen at deadline, or even later, so... that. I plead August. It's hard to get anything going in August. Your body's at work and your mind's on a beach somewhere. Life is one of those Corona commercials where people are at some bar in the big city and then they clink their Corona bottles and we see that, spiritually, they're on an island with white sand and Adirondack chairs and beer. Except that I don't drink Corona, I'm in an office, and on my mind's beach, there are no Adirondack chairs. Those things are uncomfortable.
So what's left are half-baked comments on various things affecting our industry, and I'm not even sure you're out there interested in them, because I imagine you're all mentally on your own beaches in your own preferred chairs with your preferred beer selections. Maybe there's a portable radio on your imaginary beach, but it's probably playing Jimmy Buffett tunes instead of talk radio. (Mine would most definitely not be playing Jimmy Buffett tunes. Ever.) But I gotta put SOMETHING in this column -- how far along are we? About a third done? Good -- so here are a few of those random thoughts:
1. The excitement in some quarters over the newspaper launching an online talk station confused me a little, because my reaction was a little different. Sure, it's nice that it's happening, I want it to succeed, and I have a couple of friends involved with it, plus I love anything that offers the hope of more employment for all of us, but can we not call this "new media," please? Because it's old media using a new distribution system. It's not new in any other sense. Not that it has to be, but the Internet is all about freedom to innovate. They're free NOT to do the same kind of political talk that terrestrial radio does -- really, if I can hear people talk about the same issues for free on local radio right there already on my dashboard, what will drive me to connect my phone, search for the newspaper's "radio" station, and listen to that? Shake it up, people.
2. I was moved listening to WCCO Minneapolis on Thursday night when Tommy Mischke, someone who definitely didn't follow the typical talk radio script, up and quit the medium, saying that he "reached the bottom of the tank, creatively" after 22 years. It's a reminder of how hard it is to do this job for so long and keep yourself from being repetitious, or from losing your mind. And it's something I imagine everyone feels from time to time, the feeling that you Just. Can't. Do. This. Anymore. For most, it passes and you find the fire again. For some, it's just not there. I can understand both. (As I often whine, YOU try writing a weekly column about talk radio for over a decade and not repeat yourself over and over and over and over. I often get to the "I CAN'T DO THIS!" moment, including the last-second trashing of entire columns like this week's. And then someone does something stupid and I have a reaction and it's off to the races the next week.) I think there's a topic here in how you keep yourself fresh and interested and stimulated (okay, out of the gutter this very instant, people!) day after day, week after week, year after year. Where do you find your muse? Maybe that's another column; tell me how you keep going via email, Twitter, or Facebook, and if I get enough good ideas, we'll share them here in another column.
3. Back to "new media" for a second, another thing where I have the problem but not necessarily the solution. The currency of new media is sharing. You want people to share what you create. Viral videos become viral because people share them. Tweets become big when they're shared via retweeting. Tumblr is built on sharing. What's radio doing online to get its content shared? Can someone tweet a segment from your radio show with a single click, or post to Facebook that way? Hey, if they can do iTunes tagging on HD Radio so you can tag a song for later purchase, why not let show segments be tagged for tweeting? Just an idea to throw out there (Lord knows I'm not thinking that HD Radio will ever catch on, but that might be a nice feature to promote). Again, I don't have all the solutions, but if the way to media success is now to get people promoting your content in social media, it has to become easier for people to do that with radio content.
Okay, that's enough. Time to get back to my beach. The volleyball tournament's starting, there's a nice breeze coming off the ocean, and there's absolutely no trace of "Margaritaville" in the air. Perfect.
One place to find stuff to talk about on your show is obvious: All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column Talk Topics. Need something to talk about? I got you covered. (If only there was an equivalent for trade site columns about talk radio. Someone get working on that.) Your one-stop shop for talk and personality radio material can be found by simply clicking here for the full column or going to Twitter at @talktopics, where you'll find every story linked to the appropriate item. News items, kicker stories, trend reports, sports, science, it's all there, and free, too. And read "10 Questions With..." Bill Littlefield, host of NPR and WBUR/Boston's "Only a Game," celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. He's as erudite, sports-knowledgeable, and witty as you'd expect.
Did I make it to the end of the column yet? What? I have to write a closing joke now? Yeah, well, that's not happening. My sense of humor's with my mind on an Adirondack chair on the beach. They were all out of the good lounges.