Radio’s Hot New (Old) Format: ‘The Puddle’

| January 8, 2016

By Howard B. Price
ABC Television Network
Director, Business Continuity

 

pricehowardbwriterNEW YORK — What do we learn from the nearly 20,000 people worldwide who’ve been watching a puddle on Periscope?

Well, if we’re historically conscious and observationally astute – we should be saying, “they have rediscovered the magic of radio.”

Say what? These are people watching a PUDDLE. In the UK. Visually. On social media. What does that have to do with radio?

Think about it. If you really believe all radio is local – and GREAT local radio is all about making compelling content out of the everyday events and observations in the communities it serves — then “the puddle” can be seen as a metaphor for what radio’s core mission has always been, and which it used to execute better than any other medium.

Thing is, most local stations long ago stopped talking about puddles – and potholes, and bad public services, andpuddle bloated government bureaucracies, the great new little business that opened on Main Street, the Little Leaguers racking up wins on the neighborhood sandlot, the high schools manufacturing tomorrow’s geniuses, and community groups making their small corner of the world just a little better than it was yesterday.

They stopped raking muck, and stopped raising hell. They stopped being proactive, and settled into to being reactive. They stopped pushing boundaries, and instead put up formatic fences. Instead of zigging when others were zagging, they stayed between the lines.

And so folks sit around their smartphones, watching a puddle on Periscope, no doubt just to see who will win the war of wills between people and the puddle. In other words, to see what happens “next.”

Wow…that sounds familiar. Because that’s why people listen to brilliant radio talents like Howard Stern. That’s why people used to listen to the legendary Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie Morrow in New York, Larry Lujack in Chicago, Shotgun Tom Kelly and Robert W. Morgan in LA. That’s why people in communities across the country used to listen to shows with names like CONTACT, HOTLINE, TALK OF THE TOWN. That’s why they’re listening to podcasts like SERIAL and WTF now. Compelling stories. Unique, authentic expression. Unbounded creativity.

But for the most part, local radio doesn’t do stuff like that anymore. And at the average local station these days, we’re just not growing the next generation of Ingrams and Morrows and Lujacks and Kellys and Morgans anymore. We’re not grooming storytellers or entertainers. By and large, a lot of local stations simply offer no unique listening proposition at all these days.

And so people sit around their smartphones — watching a puddle. Because it’s far more interesting than what’s on the radio. And that’s bitterly pathetic.

If you’re a PD or ND or GM, throw a “pebble” in a local “puddle” – and watch what radiates from it. Stir the waters in YOUR service area; make some NOISE, damn it. Be relevant. Be resonant. Be HEARD. Be SEEN. Talk about the little things that are BIG deals in the communities you serve. Put yourselves in store windows; Periscope YOURSELVES. Let your audience and your clients SEE you. To watch – and listen to — what happens NEXT.

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Howard B. Price, CBCP/MBCI is director, business continuity for the ABC Television Network.  The opinions expressed in his articles are his alone, and are not necessarily those of his employer.  He can be emailed at Howard.B.Price@abc.com or phoned at 212-456-1073.

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Category: Opinions