It's World Radio Day! (World What?)
February 13, 2015
Apparently, Friday is World Radio Day. I wasn't sure what World Radio Day entails, so I consulted Wikipedia and found that it was founded by UNESCO at the behest of the Kingdom of Spain, which information did not help me much, so I read on, and found that the usual celebration of World Radio Day involves international seminars at which people in suits try to look serious and mull important themes. This year's theme is "Youth & Radio," which is being celebrated by the deployment of infographics involving percentages of youth unemployment and low literacy levels in developing countries. In other words, it's very, very serious. They also held a celebratory live streaming broadcast from Paris, and I've made a mental note to ask Joel if I can cover next year's celebratory broadcast in person, assuming it's from someplace cool.
But, as I said, this IS a day to celebrate radio, which must be why it's practically nonexistent in America. Other than an occasional hashtag floating by and an item here at All Access, you, if you're here in the U.S. of A., wouldn't know it was happening. We, and by "we" I mean all of us in radio, are great at organizing conferences and conventions for ourselves, but when it comes to doing stuff that celebrates our industry by bringing the public into it, we don't do that very well, not even on our own National Radio Day, and I'll save you the trouble of looking that up and tell you that it's August 20th and you won't notice it when it comes and goes.
And I can hear you say, well, if we're talking celebratory radio events, what about "Jingle Ball" or "The iHeartRadio Music Festival" or things like that? Nope. Those are fine events but they're about the music, not radio. The promotion for those shows lists all the great acts that will be playing, not the radio hosts. They're driven by the music. And at the shows, the hosts are there merely to introduce the acts and get out of the way, which is as it should be, because while the shows are good to promote listening -- "your chance to win HogFest '15 tickets, coming up this hour, listen for the sound of sizzling bacon and be the 96th caller" -- and to promote the stations who produce them, they still don't promote what's great about radio as a medium. And they're useless for spoken word radio.
Hey, right, spoken word radio. Where's our celebration? I was at the Talk Show Boot Camp last weekend, and that's a good bunch of some of the big names in the format, but it's for industry people. And at the show, NuVoodoo held a live focus group of listeners, and I kept thinking, other than putting our shows on the air, what are we doing for these people? How are we engaging them beyond the mere provision of content and beyond retweeting them or letting them post comments on our Facebook pages? What are we doing to command loyalty, to our individual stations or to the medium?
World Radio Day isn't really for us -- it's to celebrate radio in nations where radio may be the primary communications medium, where it represents more than just a way to get music if you're not using Pandora or Spotify. In some cases, it's the sole source of the truth. It's very different here; we're not the only source of anything. We're a commodity. And that's how people will see us, fungible with podcasts and streaming and whatever other audio sources are out there.
Truth be told, it IS all "radio" to the user. And so what? I've been to the L.A. Podfest, where top podcasts tape their shows live for an appreciative audience of people who are also looking to do their own shows. Can't talk radio do something like that? Can't talk radio put its biggest names on display on one big heavily promoted day, with live appearances, TV simulcasts, streaming audio and video, carnival-like celebrations across the country? Okay, I know, we've cut back on promotional budgets and most stations are reduced to throwing up a canopy and card table and handing out postcards and trinkets nowadays, but if this thing's gonna grow, we have to make it a little show biz. I'm not going to formulate a complete plan right here, because nobody's paying me to do that. And please, do not put it into the hands of the people who came up with the campaigns radio's tried in the past -- "Radio Heard Here," anyone? This calls for something beyond the usual meet-and-greet, bigger than a booth at the county fair, more social-media aware than radio usually is.
Because we DO have something to celebrate, spoken word radio does, especially if we define it as broadly as possible: talk radio, sports talk, news radio, public radio, podcasts, streaming, hell, a guy standing on the corner with a bullhorn. We in the industry reflect the populace as a whole, a bunch of big mouths and proud of it. Maybe we should co-opt National Radio Day as an excuse to stage a consumer-facing, loud, impossible-to-ignore celebration of talk radio. Better get a move on, though. You have six months to make it happen.
Whatever day it is (and HOW'S THAT FOR A SEGUE?), you'll find that All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics has hundreds of items and ideas to make your show better, plus kicker stories you won't see anywhere else, as well as serious stuff. Find it by clicking here. And the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics has every story individually linked to the appropriate item. Also, this week, you'll enjoy "10 Questions With..." WDBO (News 96.5) "Orlando's Afternoon News" anchor Mark Starling, who regales us with tales of the accidental start to his radio career and the team effort it takes to make News 96.5's afternoon block happen.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries (a division of Legendary Pictures), which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities. This week, Jeff Bridges made his third appearance on the flagship Nerdist Podcast and we had four of the original writers of "Friends" on Nerdist Writers Panel, and that's just two of dozens of shows we posted this week. Okay, plug over.
I'll use this space to thank everyone at Talk Show Boot Camp 6 for their hospitality and all that in Atlanta this past weekend. And thanks to panel moderator Carolyn Fox for not throwing me off the panel for repeatedly ignoring the questions. They were good questions, but I'm incorrigible that way.