September 24, 2015
Last week, I was at a podcast convention -- no, call it what it calls itself, a "festival." Next week, I'll be at a radio convention. Why, yes, there's a contrast. But the striking difference between the two is less about the different tones of the conferences -- casual vs. formal, new vs. old, digital vs. analog -- than the different agendas.
The Radio Show, the NAB and RAB's annual gathering, is, as you know by now, focused on the business of radio: sales, engineering, marketing, digital. There's some content about, er, content, but the fact that it's the kind of show that refers to shows as "content" is an indication of how that part goes. The inclusion of the word "show" in the very title of the event is somewhat of a misnomer, because, apart from the Marconi Awards, there's not a lot of show biz in evidence. But it's a bunch of guys in suits, a few women in suits, and me, readily identifiable as "that guy who isn't wearing a suit." It should be fun.
And then there was the Los Angeles Podcast Festival, known as L.A. Podfest for short, which is not focused on the business of podcasting. Oh, there are some panels for that, but the heart of the show is... the shows. It's less a convention than a chance for fans to come to one place and see and hear some of their favorite shows perform and record in front of their very eyes and ears. It's a fan event, not an industry thing. The fans are there to see the shows and meet the hosts. The guests are mostly not announced in advance. It's about the hosts, the shows, the ability for fans to meet the talent and each other.
I'm not going to tell you one kind of show is better than the other. Far from it, actually. They both serve a purpose. But what I was thinking while watching podcasts being taped in front of packed ballrooms full of appreciative audiences is how radio doesn't do this, not like this one, anyway. Sure, there's the iHeart Music Festival and all those Jingle Ball/Almost Acoustic Christmas shows, but the stars of those things are NOT the radio hosts emceeing them or the radio stations promoting them. Radio's fan-facing events tend to promote the music. And the music's the part that radio doesn't have to itself.
But radio DOES have its talent to itself, at least until everyone gets laid off. There are still radio hosts who could, if so inclined, put on a live show and fill a room. And it got me thinking. Why isn't there an event in the U.S. like L.A. Podfest that shows off radio's own talent? Why isn't there a radio festival that would draw fans to see their favorite shows taped in front of them? Maybe festivals in each big market bringing together shows from competing stations would work. Why not? The Podfest had, for the most part, three prominent shows taping at a time, in adjacent ballrooms, and each room was filled. If radio can't fill up three ballrooms at a time with fans, radio is doing a bad job of engaging with its audience.
Or maybe there's another way to do it. Whatever that might be, I'd like to see radio show off and celebrate its talent and -- here's that word again -- content in something that's several steps above a client remote, something that aggressively celebrates not the music or the business side, but the part that we all keep saying is the most important thing we have to offer, the personality, the creative element....
The show. We can call it "The Radio Show." What? Taken? Oh, right. Well, we can work on that part, too.
And when you do a show, any kind of show, you can rely on All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, which, as always, is here for you with hundreds of items and ideas and bad jokes, all up-to-date and available now by clicking here. And there's the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item. This week, you'll also find "10 Questions With..." Ryan Hoppe, who doubles as promotions guy by day at WHPT (102.5 The Bone)/Tampa and as the host of "Hoppe Hour," a podcast that just won Best Local Podcast from alt-weekly Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities. Yes, podcasting. We'll talk more about that in a bit. Oh, and fuller disclosure, some of our shows appeared at L.A. Podfest, in case that matters.
Okay, then, if you'll be attending the actual Radio Show in Atlanta, or the RAIN Summit the day before, I'll be there. I don't know if that means anything to you, but if you're bored and want to rattle my cage and see what happens, you know where to find me (back of the room, near a power outlet).