By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Consultants used to make money selling “safe lists” to music stations. But with so many digital competitors now attacking, the list alone isn’t safe anymore. Especially when FMs wedge those tunes between too many commercials. So FMs mustn’t confuse “rotation” (the list) with “curation” (what you do between songs that makes you special).
And too many news/talk stations are doing too little news. Often, outside of morning drive, the five minutes atop the hour is from a network, or afternoon local newscasts pre-recorded by morning staffers; and the next 55 minutes are national content that parrots what’s all over cable.
What every station can do to be special? Something national and/or new-tech audio competitors cannot: useful local news. And before you groan about how cutbacks have clobbered HR, consider partnering with a fellow broadcaster who’s also challenged.
“If you think RADIO has problems…”
Netflix et al are to television stations what Pandora et al are to music stations. So local news is TV broadcasters’ silver bullet, and their need to remind viewers exceeds their off-air promotion budget. As The Rock would wink, “Do you smell what I’m cookin’?”
I am always impressed when I see-and-hear effective radio and TV stations swapping product.
- The most obvious asset is weather. Many radio stations’ forecasts are voiced by local television meteorologists, so the radio station’s weather cred’ stands on the broad shoulders of the weather brand the TV station promotes so relentlessly.
- For some news/talk stations, simulcasting a television newscast is the only way they can air local news in the afternoon. Radio people who love to hate TV audio are under-estimating how loyal viewers are; and how conspicuous and handy this can make the radio station.
- Especially if the deal includes promos – on both stations — by trusted Gene & Patrice, that “If you can’t be home in time to SEE us, you can HEAR us…” In every market where we’ve executed this strategy, the TV talent has remarked at how many compliments they get for being on radio.
- Deal point: During simulcast newscasts, the TV station supers “Heard live on WXXX 800AM Radio.”
Agree to reciprocal excerpting-at-will for attribution.
Translation: Each station gives blanket permission for the other to grab, from the air, whatever the other station wants, crediting the originating partner.
- Yes-there-will-be times when someone from the radio station is on-scene; or when radio scores a newsworthy interview that TV can use. Although, more often, thinner-staffed radio will use TV sound more than vice-versa.
- When I programmed WTOP, Washington, WUSA (the CBS TV affiliate) let us help ourselves to newscast audio (“And the mayor told Channel 9…”). Our desk and theirs compared assignments beforehand, and we rolled on every WUSA newscast.
- True story: The news director from NBC4 came to my office and said “You can use OUR sound, and you don’t even have to say ‘Channel 4.’ Just STOP saying ‘Channel 9.’”
- It was a flattering offer but we remained loyal to WUSA, the once-upon-a-time WTOP-TV. Decades later we were still getting mail addressed to “WTOP-TV.” And both stations being CBS affiliates contributed to the lingering impression that we were siblings, so the confusion was actually useful. Does your radio station have a long-lost brother?
Radio takes TV where it otherwise can’t go: in-car.
Note how aggressively TV stations are programming their apps and web sites. They want to be a news brand, not just a news station.
- A smart TV station would relish the opportunity to “own” a breaking local story, by giving radio a ROSR (“Reporter On-Scene Report”) during the day (when radio audience is high and TV audience is low), because doing so is a promo for the upcoming evening TV newscast, and the TV station’s digital platforms.
- Warning: This can be a tough sell to over-protective TV news directors, who may fret that by doing so they’re alerting other TV stations to the story. Stinkin’ thinkin.’ TV competitors could show up anyway, but not be-known-for covering the story like the station that’s reporting it on radio too.
Local TV news is a hungry critter…
…with a limited budget. Which is why some TV stations toss-live to their radio partner’s afternoon: “Jay, what are your callers saying about the mayor’s abrupt resignation?”
Arrangements like this were commonplace a couple decades ago, when TV had to equip the radio studio with equipment more elaborate than modern day video chat requires.
The calculus is simple.
Radio + TV > Radio – TV or TV – Radio
Radio PLUS television is greater-than Radio MINUS television or TV minus Radio.
Even if you’re a music station that doesn’t do much news at all, these opportunities are worth exploring. At least trade spots, because neither station can afford to promote as much as it should.
Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” an instant download available exclusively from Talkers Books. Click the ad banner on this page. And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show on RT America. Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at Talkers.com, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke