Gone Daddy Gone
May 20, 2016
Would people miss you if you were gone? Wait, that's a little general. Let me be more specific: If people suddenly couldn't get your show or station, would they miss you or move on?
That's one way to determine radio's value to the consumer, and it occurred to me this week when my internet, cable, and landline service went AWOL. Never mind the how and why; it's enough to say that I was without my usual access to the Net and TV most of this week, and because of other issues that necessitated my being here at the house, I couldn't even spend a lot of time at a Starbucks or other hotspot to soak up some free WiFi. I managed to work with the help of astronomically expensive data plans using an iPad as a makeshift hotspot, but it meant conserving data, so no streaming. And it was predictably agonizing to not be able to watch the NBA playoffs or baseball, not be able to watch on-demand stuff via cable or Netflix/Amazon/Hulu, and, since we live in a spot where over-the-air TV is not available, no TV, period, other than bringing in Blu-rays from the Redbox. It was... not fun. It was more than cord-cutting, it was like being sent back to the 1940s.
I survived; everything except the landline is working, and the landline these days is pretty much reserved for telemarketers and misdirected junk fax calls, so I've returned from the past. And in thinking about what I missed this week, it occurred to me that you can measure the value of programming as much by how much you'd miss it when it wasn't available as for how much you enjoy it when you're using it. With TV, it's about shows and live events. What's the analogous material for radio?
We didn't lose radio this week, and we didn't lose podcasts or streaming -- my phone is on a different, unlimited plan, and radio is, as the industry would like to remind everyone, free on those boxes you forgot you have in your house, even if, where I live, reception is not the best. But if we HAD lost radio for the week, if the dial went blank, what would I miss the most?
Good question. (Yes, I just complimented myself. Someone has to.) And in answering that -- no, I'm not going to name names -- I realized that there are a handful of talk and sports shows on broadcast radio that I would miss if there was no way to get them. Those shows tend to feature hosts with unpredictable opinions and a large dose of humor and perception. There are not a lot of shows with that combination. I'd miss some of the hosts on music radio, too, but for those whose shows are primarily music, I'd probably be comfortable replacing them with another music source. That's because the industry's devalued the one thing that would make it indispensable, personality. If all you're hearing is music and commercials, anyone can do that on any delivery mechanism. If you're connecting to a human, you'll miss it if it goes away. It's not that complicated, really.
But it doesn't matter what I'd miss, or what you'd miss, so much as it's about what your listeners would miss. Ask yourself if what you're doing can be replaced by someone or something else. Ask yourself if people who listen to your show or station are addicted enough to have trouble moving on to another show or station or medium if you're gone. And this exercise is not really about radio getting wiped out, it's about your career and your show and your station and whether you're doing it right. If you're producing replaceable material, you aren't doing yourself or your listeners any favors. That's something to keep in mind in your show prep, in your planning, in your approach to your job -- any job, really. The more unique and irreplaceable you make yourself, the better off you are in the long run. If you can't honestly imagine that your audience would miss you if they couldn't hear you, it's time to change that. It's not enough to be adequate or even just good. You need to be indispensable.
Where can you find material you can use and twist and warp to make your shows indispensable? A great place to start is All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, with news items and kickers and bad jokes for any kind of show. Get it 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 Podcasting section at AllAccess.com/podcasts. Also, this week, guest interviewer Roy Trakin put together a great "10 Questions With..." former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and current podcaster Jim Breuer, with plenty of talk about the SNL days and the Mets and comedy.
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, a division of Legendary Pictures and Legendary Digital Networks, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities.
Let me tell you, you don't realize how addicted you are to modern telecommunications until you don't have it. You also don't realize how much you need that connection until you lose it. Can I live without broadband and cable and all that? Yes. Is it better to have all of that available? Yes. Welcome back, 2016, I missed you.