February 12, 2016
The thing is, we're all thinking in too narrow a manner.
We do it in all facets of life. We think in terms of our specific job. We think in terms of our hometown, our favorite team, our political "side." Everything gets filtered, and that's natural, but it colors how we approach things and, ultimately, it limits what we do. And it's those who seek different ideas and try to expand their universe that ultimately succeed the most.
No (expletive deleted) kidding. What was that, a cut-and-paste from a management self-help book?
I don't know. I haven't read one of those since "Who Moved My Cheese" or "Who Cut The Cheese" or whatever that thing was called that was really big about 20 years ago, and all I remember from that was rodents and cheese. But I thought about this when I noticed that a particular company in the entertainment business is bringing in speakers from industries and disciplines outside its own, just to speak to employees and give them an idea of how other industries are growing and handling change and seeing the world. I thought this was a great idea, and it got me to thinking about radio.
We in radio tend to see things the way they used to be and, we assume, always will be. Radio is that with which we grew up: formats, stations, call letters, 10-in-a-row, fast talking, "radio voices," transmitters and antennae and legendary jocks. Now that "radio," to the rest of society, means something much broader and not necessarily what we all knew it to be up until now, a lot of radio folks, from board ops all the way to CEOs, are having a hard time adjusting. Some look at streaming and podcasts as the enemy, as alien, as nothing we need to understand or learn from, because it's not radio, it's just some external force that came out of nowhere and is now threatening the mothership. But radio's not alone in that kind of thinking. I can tell you, as someone who's working both sides of that street, that people in the digital space are as narrow as radio people are. They don't think that there's anything to be learned from "old" radio. Many are cold towards advice and counsel from radio people who have experience producing what they're trying to reinvent. They see themselves as in one camp, and other camps aren't relevant.
Both sides could use some insight from each other. And they could use some insight from people in industries that were challenged in various ways by technological advances, social changes, or economic crisis. If all you do is sleep, eat, and drink radio, you're missing out on what you can learn from the tech industry, from the auto industry, from the restaurant industry, from retail, from the financial world. I don't mean that just for the managers, either. If you're a talent, you need to learn how to adapt, how to think in a flexible way when circumstances change, what's happening not just in your own narrow world but everywhere, to everybody. And that means expanding your intake of news and information to get an idea of what's happening that ISN'T about radio.
So, by all means, keep up with radio news (right here at All Access, of course), and go to radio conventions, and do the radio thing. And do the same for digital audio. But you should be following what's happening in tech, in retail, in countless other industries, because chances are, you'll recognize things they're going through and dealing with as analogous to what radio is experiencing, and you might find that while you're not going to do a talk show about the pressures on the widget industry, something that Big Widget is facing might help you get a handle on a topic you WOULD talk about. Bottom line: The more you think of yourself and what you do as defined by "radio," the less you'll learn about everything -- including radio -- you really need to know. It's never too late to learn stuff.
The above is why, at All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, I dig up news items from all kinds of categories, including some you'd never think of yourself. It's what we do here. And we have the usual kickers and bad jokes, too, all suitable for your show prep needs, and all available by clicking here and at the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item. And there's the new Podcasting section at AllAccess.com/podcasts. Also, we have a cool "10 Questions With..." Walton and Johnson's producer, character voice wizard, and KPRC/Houston host "Producer Ken" Webster Jr., talking about life on both sides of the studio window.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, a division of Legendary Pictures and Legendary Digital Entertainment, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities.
Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day. Sorry about last week; had a personal obligation that turned out to preclude having time to write a column. It had nothing to do with radio or podcasting or writing, but it did give me a certain perspective on how some things work.... wait, that's my entire point, isn't it?