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Are You Doing Both Kinds of “Radio?”

| January 21, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Based on how people now consume audio content, “radio” sorts into two piles:

1. There’s programming that’s valuable because it’s live:

2. Traffic reports are radio’s MOST-perishable information. Save listeners unpleasant surprises and they’ll love ya.

• Close second: weather, which can also disrupt listeners’ plans, quickly and painfully.

• Play-by-play is high-affinity stuff, often high drama that unfolds moment-to-moment.

• Talk radio gives listeners their voice, and catharsis when a story like the Newtown shooting massacre breaks.

• And, of course, the news itself. ICYMI, tips for making your’s the market’s whassup button.

All-of-the-above are, literally, “currency,” and exploit radio’s powerful head start over smartphones and tablets and new-tech dashboards which also now deliver this content. Be clear, radio is playing defense. And the best defense is a good offense: solid content, presented in user-friendly fashion, and effectively branded.

None-of-the-above timeshift well. And those robotic music stations that let listeners vote, song-by-song, constantly rearranging the playlist? Automated, yes. But live. And logical democracy, with users now expecting to participate.

2. The other kind of audio publishing is non-time-sensitive content, which, increasingly, consumers choose from archives:

• iTunes is the most conspicuous non-broadcaster-based download depot, but certainly not the only one.

• Public radio is a dang clinic in how broadcasters can offer pick-and-choose on-demand content.

• And lots of content gets passed around with NO formal distributor, via social media. Anyone’s stuff can go viral.

Mathematically, most of a radio station’s listeners don’t hear most of its programming. So make content available to people who didn’t happen to hear it live – sponsored by advertisers who want to reach them — by excerpting airchecks into snack-size chunks, indexed by topic, on a page of what-we-used-to-call “podcasts.” And elsewhere. For instance, any audio you put on a server can be part of a Tweet, putting radio content back into listeners’ pockets.

Don’t stop there. Repurposing on-air–to-online is the low-hanging fruit. Radio’s obvious opportunity is to create advertiser-friendly, server-based, special interest programming…which non-broadcasters are already doing aplenty. But, as we train sales reps to ask local retailers with Internet assets: “Unless we tell our cume, how will they know you’re there?”

Exploit radio’s research-demonstrated ability to drive internet traffic. Use broadcast shortform – ROS spots disguised as informative vignettes – to invite consumption of narrowcast longform digital. Reach + Frequency, baybeee. Fashioning such stuff is a big part of what I do for client stations, and will make you darn valuable if it’s what you do at your station.


See/hear/read more from consultant Holland Cooke at; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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Category: Analysis