July 17, 2015
Hi. I'm in the back of a hotel ballroom again, at another convention. This one -- the Conclave -- was, as these things go, actually quite good, with some interesting, informative panels and sessions, and it was nice to see lots of young, aspiring radio professionals here looking for a foot in the door. I will refrain from saying something like "oh, those poor misguided souls," because, you know, I actually do love radio, love it still, and would welcome new blood to come in and shake things up. And, hey, they let me be on a panel, filibustering about podcasting stuff and waving a Zoom H6 in people's faces and probably making zero sense. So, not complaining.
All right, maybe a little complaining. It's one thing to talk a good game, and another to play it. Everyone agrees, we need to find and develop talent for both programming and sales, we need to be better at social media, we need to have a digital strategy, we need need need need. Yet while we're agreeing that we need to do everything, there's not enough doing. You can tell me about how talk radio needs to get away from the old style, but I turn on most talk stations and hear the same old ranting. You can tell me about how you understand what Millennials are looking for, but I don't always hear it on the air. You can tell me about the value of storytelling, but I hear so little of it on commercial radio.
Less talking, more doing, please.
I'm not suggesting that nobody's doing the right thing; some programmers and operators can see what the future portends and what they can do to take advantage of the changes. But after a few years of this, I'm still waiting for more of commercial radio to do something better than "me too" podcasting networks and repurposed content and the same programming slapped on a stream. I guess the first step is to admit that you have a problem, but that second step is a tough one. And it's taking too long.
I know that there are some good stories out there about commercial radio stations and companies doing interesting, cutting-edge things. The cumulative effect, however, is negligible. That's why radio's image at the moment is so weak, even as the medium's reach remains ahead of other media. We know we have an image problem, but that's not enough. Neither is hiring a PR firm to "fix" it. What we need is a hit. Okay, maybe you don't find a Howard Stern every day, but what's the last radio show you can think of that became a national sensation, something everyone talks about, something that makes radio seem vital and essential and of-the-moment?
That's what we need. If on-demand subscription TV had its "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black," and podcasting had its "Serial" and Obama on "WTF," commercial broadcast radio needs its next moment. It has to take that next step, and soon. I'd like to see the Conclave overrun in the next few years with eager talent wanting to be the next (insert name of Next Big Thing here). Or we can keep kicking the can down the road, because that's easier to accomplish.
Whether or not you've taken that next step, you need something to talk about on the air or on your podcast or to your cat. That's the purpose of 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.
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.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities.
Now, back to the last sessions of the Conclave, followed by the dash to the airport and the long flight home. For those of you who follow Talk Topics, jet lag willing, things will be back to normal by Sunday. "Normal," of course, is relative. Thanks for bearing with me. Again.