Well, Actually, You Don’t HAVE To Catch ‘Em All
July 22, 2016
How much time do you have for your amusement?
I have very little free time, what with work and family and the need for sleep. Something has to give, and anything that doesn't earn me money or involve time with my wife is going to take a back seat. (You'll notice that sleep has definitely taken a secondary position for me. That's not good, but that's life.) Time is a major issue, one of the biggest topics for everyday life; there's not enough of it for everything we want to do, whether work or play.
This came up again for me this week when I was standing in a parking lot catching a Pokémon. Yeah, I tried Pokémon GO, and at that moment, on a beautiful, sunny day by the ocean, I strayed off my usual running route and was flicking a red-and-white ball at some creature and it was that moment that I thought: WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?
I knew exactly what I was doing. I was wasting time. So I caught a Pokémon. So I was moving up the levels. So freakin' what. That was the last Pokémon I've caught to date; I haven't deleted the app yet, but I haven't played, either.
And that will dawn on other people at some point, and you'll see the growth of the surprise hit game slow down. People stopped playing Angry Birds, didn't they? The fads come and go, and there'll be more coming up to take this one's place.
But it's not just games. How many must-see TV shows have you missed because you haven't even caught up with LAST year's must-see shows? Our DVR's full, we have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and Hulu and HBO Go, we have a growing list of shows we want to see, and we're still slowly -- no binges, no time for that -- making our way through only a couple of them. By the time I'll have time to finally see the latest shows which everyone on Twitter and Facebook insists we HAVE to see, we'll all be flying around with jetpacks (we were promised!) and TV will be beamed directly into our brains.
There are more examples, but you get the point. There's too much of everything to fit into a day, and when I see others finding time for those pursuits -- binge-watching TV, playing video games -- and think, "who has time for that?," I remind myself that everyone makes choices on how to spend their time. While one person is on their PlayStation, another is spending that time on Facebook and Twitter, another is watching "Orange is the New Black," and millions are wandering around town catching Pokémon. You can't do everything, so you pick a few and make them your priorities.
What can radio learn from this? First, you want radio to be one of those priorities, but that's not how people view radio anymore; you're a utility, the easiest soundtrack available when they're in their cars or chopping veggies in the kitchen. The way to take a larger role is to produce the kind of foreground content that they'll make time to hear, and that, increasingly, is taking the form of podcasts, especially those which either tell cliffhanger stories on a serialized basis, offer focused conversation on very specific topics, or feature great personalities who can draw an audience just by being themselves. Radio can take a cue from that and sign up talent to produce that kind of appointment listening (and then allow that talent free reign to do it right, and offer it not just on the air but via streaming and podcasting). Just playing the hits isn't going to get people to make time for you anymore; they have streaming music services for that.
Second, when you do a show, remember that this is not 1936 and your audience is not curled up in front of the Philco paying rapt attention to your every word. They are almost certainly doing something else -- driving, reading Twitter rants about Donald Trump, checking their email. If you want to grab them, you have to get to the point, and do it right away. The surest way to lose your audience's attention is to waste time with introductions and idle chatter with the producer and call screener. Start with the topic at hand and get right into it. That goes for broadcast radio, it goes for the talk segments of a music show, and it definitely applies to podcasts. And it's a constant thing, too: You are always in danger of losing your audience's concentration, so you have to keep the energy and interesting material going at all times. Just imagine someone tuning in right in the middle of a segment. Are you talking about something that will keep them there? Will you convey that in the first 15-30 seconds that they hear from you? You'd better, because they do not have the time or patience to stick with you and wait for something entertaining to happen. If you're boring, they're gone.
Which is to say that you need to be respectful of your potential listeners' time. They have so little of it that if they happen to find you on the dial or on a podcast or stream, you need to give them something to reward that choice at all times. Otherwise, they'll be like I was in the parking lot throwing virtual balls at a virtual critter, wondering why they're doing what they're doing. The game didn't offer me a reason, a reward for giving it my time, nothing other than "hey, isn't this fun?" When it ceases to be fun, you move on.
So be fun.
Prepping your show? Don't waste time (See what I did there? Yes? And it's not all that clever? Okay, then). All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, has the news items and kickers and bad jokes you need, all in one place, 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 Podcasting section at AllAccess.com/podcasts.
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.
I reserve the right, by the way, to start catching Pokémon again. It IS fun, in a way. And I'd probably be a lot less dismissive if I did better in the gyms.