I love radio. I love making it, making it better, making it relevant and accessible, making it meaningful and making it informative. I love listening to radio and being entertained, amazed, challenged and surprised. I also love talking about it. That’s why I’ve relaunched a new season of the Radio Stuff Podcast. (You should listen, subscribe, share and rate it on iTunes.)
In making episode 134 of Radio Stuff sponsored by Promo Suite, I realized my podcast has been influenced by many others. Some are about radio and making great audio, some are storytelling focused and others are interviews about the business.
Here are seven podcasts I’m listening to for insight, information, context and entertainment. All of these are available on iTunes in addition to other platforms.
Bob Schieffer’s “About the News” – The CBS news veteran talks to journalists, bureau chiefs, editors, and executives about the news. It’s a behind the scenes chat with names you know and with people who lead the news industry.
James Cridland Radio Futurologist – Londoner turned Aussie, James brings his written words to life with 3 to 5 minute podcast shots. Great international perspective on our industry.
Radio Today – the great Trevor Dann consistently delivers this weekly listen about radio in the U.K. And Europe. He talks to the news makers and icons. Plus, David Lloyd Radio Moments.
Sound Off Podcast – Canadian and radio pro Matt Cundill shows off production value and a great sense of curiosity in this weekly podcast about radio. I’m featured in the next episode.
Barrett Sports Media Podcast – this is a newly launched podcast by veteran sports radio programmer turned consultant Jason Barrett. He’s talking to talent and management about how they do what they do and addressing the big headlines in radio each week.
Under the Influence – this is a marketing podcast that’s also a radio show on CBC. It’s a great listen, well researched and highly produced. A good example of how to take seamingly disparate stories and connect them through a show theme.
What podcasts are you listening to for inspiration, instruction or example?
I’ve been telling all the talent I work with that 2016 will be about context, context, context and concerning ourselves with the verbal and the vocal. The verbal and the vocal? Yes. A little something I picked up while chatting with David Lloyd, author of “How to Make Great Radio.”
“Verbal is the words. Vocal is how they are delivered,” explains Lloyd in Episode 121 of the Radio Stuff podcast. “Listen to great presenters and the way they speak, the way they use their voice, the way they pause, the way the words come out of their mouth.”
He’s right, you know? The great presenters or on-air talent have a way with words and know just how to deliver a line or tell a story to engage the listener and make them care.
Lloyd continues, “Words are so critically important. When you’re doing a coaching session with a presenter you can see their eyes roll as they say, ‘Ah, for goodness sakes it’s only a word.’ But words are all we have. Words are what set one radio station apart from another. You know you can play the same records as your competitor in the same order, but what sets you apart is your imaging and the words you use. I think to focus on those is critically important.”
It’s not just a radio thing. How any business talks with its customers is critically important.
“I was in a shopping centre last week and I came out of the toilet and there is a big sign and it says ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ and an arrow,” shared Lloyd. “And I thought, ‘Wow, someone has thought about that.’ Because they could’ve had a sign saying ‘Shops.’ But they said ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ The emotional response to a sign that signs ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ compared to a sign that says ‘Shops’ — you can’t compare the two.”
Yes, thinking about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it takes time. But, it’s a thousand little decisions about the words you use and the intonation you choose that sets you apart.
“You hear a lot of radio and think you’ve just thrown up the fader, you have not given any thought whatsoever to how you’re going to frame it.” Lloyd suggests, “If you are going to talk about “X” how are you going to describe it? What are the words you’re going to throw in there? You don’t need to write a script, but just to have thought about the colors, the textures, and the conversation you’re about to have with your listener.”
Along these same lines there is a great TED Talk by Julien Treasure about how to get people to hear what you have to say and it also reflects this theme of the verbal and vocal. It’s worth 10 minutes of your time.
The relationship between a broadcaster and an interview subject has triggered my curiosity. Let me tell you why. About 6 days before the Canadian election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reached out to the radio station I work with and made himself available for an interview. He rarely talks to media and it was certainly topical and timely, but the host had hesitations. There were conditions.
- We would travel to where he was going to be, he wouldn’t come in studio.
- We would get seven minutes.
- Topics were limited to the economy and the housing market in B.C. (Contrary to some reports that the first two questions were dictated from the campaign.)
Jon McComb didn’t want to be shill for the Prime Minister and had no intention of turning a valuable segment of his show into a seven-minute infomercial. To make matters worse the Prime Minister’s handlers wouldn’t confirm if it was going to happen, when it was going to happen or where.
Jon was ready to walk from it.
I suggested that just because the conditions are laid out it doesn’t make them law. I advised Jon to do the following:
- Ask one question each about the economy and housing. Any question. They wanted the whole interview about these topics, but editorial we weren’t willing to give up control. Economy and housing are big issues that we would have addressed anyway so there wasn’t much of a “give” there. But we were also interested in legalization of marijuana and other issues.
- Do not worry about the seven minute time constraint. Keep asking questions until you get the interview you want. If they cut you off that is another story to share.
- I also suggested complete transparency to the audience. I urged Jon to tell the whole story; his feelings, misgivings, observations, how he was treated, and what conditions we agreed to.
He did all of the above (listen here) and it turned what could have been a boring, seven minute political campaign interview into an hour of great radio which fueled conversation for a day. It also created news for other outlets: Vancouver News and Huffington Post.
The question at the heart of this particular interview is that there were conditions put forth and we didn’t go running through hills in opposition. We calmly considered the situation and looked for a way to make an interview with the leader of Canada a reality.
Some journalists are critical of what we did and see it as an affront to democracy and free media. I applaud their integrity and principles as journalists. But Jon isn’t a journalist. Jon is a talk host. He has an honest relationship with his audience and is obligated to inform and entertain every day. He did that with tremendous effect in this case. That being said, I would not have put a news reporter in the same position.
From a big picture perspective, talk shows negotiate conditions of interviews all the time.
- What time?
- How long?
- About what?
- Live or recorded?
- How much $$$? Some organizations pay for newsmakers, I have only paid regular contributors in my career (ie. Columnists, athletes, beat reporters for other organizations)
- What can I promote? Web addresses, products, events. We all agree to interviews with worthwhile spokespeople so we get access to them and they get their message out.
Some things are not negotiable. After all, I do have some scruples. I say no every time when a guest insists on using pre-agreed questions, wants to review the interview before it airs, have any say over edits or control over how it is presented on air.
The truth, which might be hard for some to swallow, is whether it be movie stars, authors, experts, politicians, celebrities or everyday people at the heart of every interview there is an unspoken quid pro quo. In all cases the radio station is attempting to get information, personal stories or access and in return the interviewee is receiving a platform, fame, access to our listeners, association with our brands or positioning as an expert. We don’t sell it that way and we don’t discuss it out loud, but deep down, buried in the unconscious recess of their existence, people who agree to an interview with the media are doing so because they get something from it.
So about those conditions. Is it better to take a pious position and reject all conditions out right or or be forthcoming and transparent and develop great content for the radio?
I am really interested in hearing how you view the topic. Please add comments by clicking the link at the top of the page.
In Vancouver, Rock 101 rebranded as “U2 101” for 16 hours as part of a promotion for the opening night of U2’s “iNNOCENT + eXPERIENCE” 2015 world tour. It was a great way to reinforce the station’s classic rock brand and own a major event that already had the city buzzing. To get the story behind the story, I chatted with Ronnie Stanton, Corus Media VP of National Brands and Programming and PD of Rock 101.
GIFFORD: What elements made up U2 101?
STANTON: 7am on the day of their first concert in Vancouver, which was also the first concert of their new world tour through to about 8:30am we did an interview with U2, in-studio, with our morning show “Willy in the Morning,” played lots of songs as well, but lots of great questions and those guys were fully engaged like they loved being there. It was really authentic, human, it was terrific. For the rest of the day we gave away pairs to the shows that night and played U2 double-shots. It was really cool. We changed every single element. The words “Rock 101” did not appear on the website, they didn’t appear on the radio for that entire period. We were fully U2 101.
GIFFORD: Why U2 101?
STANTON: U2 is one of the biggest bands in the world and at Classic Rock stations all around the world we’re trying to constantly reinvent the format to keep it relevant and keep it less nostalgic. So, when one of your core artists does a major tour you want to do everything you can to own the artist and own it in a contemporary way.
GIFFORD: How’d you pull it off?
STANTON: So, about six or seven weeks ago I started talked to the head of the record label, Universal, and I think it was more than anything about asking the pretty girl for a dance. This didn’t happen on other radio stations, because I don’t think other radio stations said, “Yeah we’ll change our name, yeah we’ll do whatever, like let’s get those boys in here.” And it turned into great radio.
GIFFORD: What was the reaction?
STANTON: Terrific. People loved it. In a PPM world if this doesn’t move the needle I’m going to just go buy a food truck.
The full conversation with Ronnie Stanton and some examples of the imaging will be featured in Radio Stuff Podcast Episode 102 (released 5/21/2015). Here are clips from the interview with Willy and U2.
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There is a new app called “6 Seconds” created by digital music pioneer Michael Robinson. I’ve blogged about his DAR.FM service before. This new app turns thousands of digital radio streams from around the world into an instant Spotify or Pandora with one advantage – unlimited skipping.
“It’s a free app for Android and IOS that takes a totally new approach to internet radio,” Robinson tells the Radio Stuff Podcast. “We put the artist and song first, let users indicate what style of music, artist or even specific song they want and then we go find the station’s that match that.”
Essentially, “6 seconds” allows people to listen to the music they want while discovering new radio stations around the globe. When the song ends, the listener hears the next song or commercials or whatever the radio station is playing until they “left swipe” to skip to the next song that relates to your initial search.
In my test of the app (see screenshots below), I searched for The Beatles and was given a list of about 20 stations currently playing Beatles songs.
I chose “Come Together” on KVRW (a Lawton, Oklahoma station I would never have listened to otherwise) and then tested the skip feature.
Next came, “Do You Want to Know a Secret.”
That was followed by “Sister Golden Hair” by America (not the Beatles but same genre).
Next up was “Jumping Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones.
So far, so good. And then the Beach Boys. On the surface it seems to fit until I realized it was a Christmas tune, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Perfect? No. Clever? Indeed. I love that I’m not only discovering new music, but new radio stations (many seemingly online stations) and I like can favorite stations I like to return whenever I want. Go ahead and download it and try it out.
Looking for an anoter review? Radio futurologist James Cridland test drives the app too.