Because I Said So
July 10, 2015
You know the rules.
Talk stations have to be consistent. You have to have hosts who are politically aligned. The shows have to be a certain length, and in the same slot every single weekday. The clock is the clock, immutable. The hosts have to sound a certain way, with a certain voice quality. You have to do everything by the book, because...
Well, because we've always done it that way. The rules are the rules. IT'S A PROVEN FACT.
You know, when we were children, we'd respond to that with a question that might be the single most powerful question in the universe.
We don't ask "why" enough in this business. We just do what everyone else does, what everyone else has been doing. Shows are always three or four hours long, and hosts work five days a week. Why? You see new media - podcasts and streaming - getting traction with shows as short as 20 or 25 minutes, and once a week or even once every month, or three times a week, or whenever. So, why does every talk station stick to the schedule as always, when people are consuming media differently today?
Why, indeed. Why is there the obsession with live and local when the trend in competing media is for not-at-all-live and definitely-not-local? Why are most radio news reports still formatted and delivered the way they were 50 years ago when there are apps that are allowing users to filter reports and customize their feeds? (If stations don't see changes in news coming, at least the networks do and are adapting.) Why is broadcast talk radio in 2015 a lot like broadcast talk radio in 1995?
That's not to say that nobody's trying new things; I'm aware of the stations that are trying to shake things up a little. What I'm waiting for is the bigger idea, the real shakeup, the people who look at what talk radio is and decide to do something radical and not worry about the slings and arrows of traditionalists who will surely scoff and root for it to fail the way some radio people always root for innovators to fail (and then copy the innovations when they don't fail). You don't get the big win by playing it safe. You don't hit a homer when you're squared around to bunt. You... get the picture. The biggest success stories start with someone willing to take a risk, and if broadcast talk radio doesn't take some chances soon, listeners will find what they want elsewhere.
So, if you're doing the same old thing, always ask "Why?" And if you can't answer that with solid evidence -- if you don't have credible researched information to say why you should do it that way, if it's only because, well, we've ALWAYS done it that way -- look to do something completely different. Zag when others are zigging, to borrow an overused phrase. And if you're contemplating breaking the mold, you can then ask a related question:
Yeah, why not?
Whatever risk you take, or even if you're risk averse, you gotta talk about something, and you'll find that something at All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, with hundreds of items and ideas and bad jokes, available now by clicking here. And there's the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item. Also, we have "10 Questions With..." Steve Touhy, who's nicely managed a move from broadcast radio to streaming with his Touhyville show in suburban Chicago - he tells you why and how he did it and how it's going in this week's interview.
You can follow my personal Twitter account at @pmsimon, and my Instagram account (same handle, @pmsimon) as well? And you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pmsimon, and there's pmsimon.com, back in occasional action.
And as for Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities. Former radio hand Jimmy Kimmel guests this week on "You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes," and it's really funny -- and if you know all the stories from KROQ days, he explains the Canadian bacon thing. Ugh.
Thanks for bearing with me as I've been busy for the past two weeks, and thanks for the birthday wishes, too. I'll be at The Conclave next weekend in Minneapolis talking about podcasting and stuff on a panel with George Woods and Sean Ross, so if you're going to be there, please stop by and watch me mouth inanities and sweat. It's always a fun time.