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7 Podcasts Helping to Make Great Radio

rs134cvrI 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.

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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.

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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.  howsound_social_medium

HowSound – This is a master’s class in audio storytelling. It’s a bi-weekly podcast produced for PRX and Transom and dives into technique, storytelling formulas and structure with lots of examples.

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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

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.

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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.

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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?

Verbal and Vocal

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.

e_rnh2Vu“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.

12465937_1152250131459362_9196141028587536586_o“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.”

RS 121 coverYes, 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.

My Favorite Blog Posts of 2015

As a guy who has been blogging over the course of the last five years it is heartening to see stats rise from 1,500 views in 2010 to over 33,000 in 2015. But, and I presume my fellow bloggers will concur, the most popular blog posts arent neccessarily the ones the writer loves, adores or sweated over. So I give you my favorite posts of the year, even if they didn’t get the attention I wished they did.

snl40It’s Time For Your SNL Moment – Love it or hate it Saturday Night Live’s 40thanniversary show can serve as inspiration for your next radio event.

Curse of Subjective Adjectives – This is a phenomenal blog post; it’s fun, insightful, sensational, great, super, terrific, and awesome. Depending on who you are.

Paul KayeAirchecks. Dreaded Airchecks. – One of the issues that I hear from talent quite a bit is how airchecks suck. They dread them. Talent feel like they’ve been slimed by negativity afterwards when they just want some support, strategy and a plan to improve. They know what sucked. How do you fix it?

Secrets to Podcasting Success – In May 2014, Anna Sale launched the podcast “Death, Sex & Money” from the studios of WNYC. In the 10 months that has followed, Anna’s podcast has hit #1 on iTunes and she’s learned a ton about producing a successful podcast. Lucky for us she shared her revelations at Radiodays Europe and with the Radio Stuff Podcast.

What Do You Do With An Idea? – In recent weeks, clients have been sharing with me the anxieties associated with following their gut or executing on an idea.

RS 100 coverInside Radio Stuff #100 – How I landed the interview with Jonathon Brandmeier and how it all came together.

Broadcast Interview Scruples – The relationship between a broadcaster and an interview subject has triggered my curiosity. Let me tell you why.

Cirque du Radio – I was at the show Kooza last night and saw this awesome assembly of remarkable talent. It’s a really, really talented troupe. A couple things struck me as it relates to radio

Planning Ahead for the Sake of Spontaneity

If I were to tell you to drive from Seattle, Washington to Miami, Florida the first thing you’d probably do is tell me you’d rather fly. Fair enough. But, let’s pretend you’re driving.

What would you do? Make a list.

 

List

(Your list may not look like this, especially if you don’t enjoy beef jerky)

THE POINT?

The point is you don’t really just jump in a car and go. You plan for the things that are predictable.

Why do we do this?

Seattle to MiamiWe do this so when we’re driving along and we see a sign for “Biggest Ball of Twine” and want to stop, we can. But, when you’re done you need to know to get back on the highway instead of winding through back roads. That’s where planning comes into play. We also plan ahead in case we want to buy a cool souvenir. How do you know you can afford that stylish cowboy hat if you haven’t planned ahead?

Planning ahead allows for spontaneous moments on road trips… and radio shows.

USE THE FORCE (OR A CALENDAR)

Do not be the radio host who awakens on December 18th, realizes Star Wars is premiering, looks at his team and says, “What do you guys want to do with that today?”

That’s the attitude of someone who doesn’t respect his or her audience, but couches it in the spirit of spontaneity and authenticity.

Radio truth bomb: You can be spontaneous, authentic AND plan ahead.

HOW TO PLAN AHEAD

The key is to plan for moments and events you can, so you can focus your attention the day of your show on creatively tackling stories you couldn’t anticipate.

Here’s how:

Create a calendar and plot out holidays, big movie releases, local annual events, big sporting events, concerts, and anything else your audience is in to.

Brainstorm ideas with a group of folks a month or two ahead. This is everything from on-air bits, pieces of audio, liners, promos, parody songs, listener engagement to web content and social media plans.

Focus your list on the items you want to do.

Assign someone the task of doing each item.

Put deadlines on it.

Day of: roll it out.

This planning process gives you the freedom, time and opportunity to own it, edited it, be creative, and produce something great. Simultaneously, it gives you the confidence to be in the moment instead of thinking about what’s next and frees-up your creative brain to be spontaneous.

INSIDE RADIO STUFF #100

RS 100 coverI just recorded and edited the 100th episode of the Radio Stuff podcast. It features an extensive interview with Cumulus and Westwood One personality Jonathon Brandmeier. It also marks the milestone by sharing memories with original co-host Deb Slater and listening back to a few favorite moments. I realized of all 100 episodes this one is among the most challenging. Primarily due to production. This experience reinforced the importance of caring about the details and asking for help when you need it. Here’s how it all came together.

LANDING BRANDMEIER
I had been talking to Brandmeier and his team about doing the podcast even before the new show was announced on WLS and Westwood One. We have mutual friends and had some business dealings in the past year so it wasn’t really ever about IF he’d do it, but WHEN the timing would be right. They wanted to wait until about a month into the new show. Last week I suggested the 100th episode and Johnny made it work.

Our call was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PDT immediately following his syndicated show. I asked for 30 minutes, we talked for an hour. I started rolling tape and talking to the Radio Stuff listeners while waiting for the phone to ring. I don’t have a phone coupler, so I plug the phone directly into the board, place the phone on the desk. I record my part into a microphone and the phone mic sends my voice to the guest. In this case, I was talking for about 8 minutes before he called. Rolling before the interview is an NPR trick to capture everything. I blogged about it with Anna Sale a couple of months ago. My monologue and our opening exchange become a teaser clip I released 24 hours in advance of the podcast. His opening line to me after I answer the phone is the first thing you hear on the podcast.

 

THE CLIPS and DROPS
Brandmeier uses a lot of audio during his show and our interview was no different. However, the phone distorted the audio he was sending down the line. So, I had Brandmeier send all the clips after the interview to insert in post. The clips, for the most part, are longer than what he sent down the line, so I had to find the parts he used, edit, insert them and silence the phone version. For example, I used about 20 seconds of the audio from this video in the show.

THE LEVELS
After recording, even though I thought the levels were perfect, my voice entirely dominated Brandmeier’s, so I went through the entire interview and adjusted all my parts to blend more seamlessly with Johnny and then raised the gain on the whole file.

DEB SLATER
Deb recorded her voice on her end and I recorded my voice on my end. She then sent her file to edit in a higher quality audio. I recorded her right after Brandmeier and forgot to unplug the phone from the board. So, that means I recorded her too. I tried to silence the phone quality version of Deb, but I couldn’t get it all. You’ll hear it switch back and forth especially when she’s laughing or talking over me. My mistake. Won’t do it again.

During our chat she mentioned several moments from early Radio Stuff shows that I found after our call and inserted in post production.

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 1

After receiving that tweet from John Collins about the return of the fake town crier after the second Royal baby was born, I put an all call out for audio of the town crier.

It worked! I received this email a few days later;

Dear Larry,

You asked on Saturday for a clip of the town crier announcing Kate’s baby.
Here’s how 680 News in Toronto reported it.

https://soundcloud.com/bandanachap/royal-birth-town-cryer

Downloadable WAV (but from internet feed), 12MB, 1:10.

There’s a lesson in how radio has no borders any more.

Journalists in London capture the sound, and beam it around the world.

An all-news radio station in Toronto edits the announcement into their piece, broadcasts it to their listeners in Toronto, and right around the world on the internet.

A listener travelling on a train in Britain hears the piece, thinks “that might be interesting”, hits rewind on his mobile app, records it for posterity, and makes it available.

Congratulations on Radio Stuff 100, and here’s to many many more.

All best,
Weaver

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 2
After realizing the town crier was going to be a topic of discussion, I again asked twitter followers for help.

Geoff McQueen saw it and tagged DJ Dapper Dan and within an hour it was done. DJ Dapper Dan also had some thoughts on the fake town crier.

“That chap Appleton did not have the permission to cry from the Royal Family, they just said they didn’t object and that he should consult the relevant local authority which he failed to do as far as we know over here. Anyway he is not a bona fide Town Crier as you have to be appointed by a Lord of The Manor, A Local Authority or Similar level of accepted Government Body. He is not, never has been and is not likely to be. But fair play to him, he got a lot of publicity!”

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 3
I also reached out directly to Radio Today host Trevor Dann to see if he would offer a toast for the 100th episode. Trevor has been a supporter and reoccurring guest over the course of two years and I was happy he agreed to record a little something for the show.

CONCLUSION
I sometimes wonder why I go through all the hoops I do to create a show each week, but it is because I want it to be great. I don’t always hit out of the park, but when all is said and done I’m usually extremely satisfied with the product and proud to put my name on it. Johnny said it in the interview and I believe it to; you have to do the show for yourself first and not worry about who is listening.

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Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Eight Ingredients of Remarkable Radio Shows

There are a lot of remarkable radio shows in America and they each have found success their own way. Which means there are far more than eight things to consider when trying to build a show up, but this is a great start.

These tips ring true to me which is why I isolated them from original interviews I conducted with each of these hosts. All the conversations can be found on the Radio Stuff Soundcloud page.

Notice none of the talent talk about billboards, bumper stickers or social media. Great shows can benefit from those things, but bad shows cannot be made great with marketing.

RELATED: SEVEN INGREDIENTS OF GREAT RADIO TALENT

And now, eight ingredients of remarkable radio shows.

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Gene “Bean” Baxter

Be consistent, but not predictable. “Show up every day, be prepared, and evolve.” Gene Baxter a.k.a. Bean of Kevin & Bean explains, “We’re not the guys, generally, that are doing the same bit we did 10 years ago or 20 years ago. We’re looking for new things to do and new things to talk about. As hard as it is to get young people to listen to FM Radio these days I think that’s why we’ve had some success bringing them along because we are still trying to talk about contemporary things.”

Be authentic. “There’s a lot of fake conservatives on the air, a lot of comedians disguised as political pundits, and I avoided the temptation to do that,” Tom Leykis remembers when he was offered an opportunity to be a conservative talker. “I chose to go my own road and that means to not lie about who I am, to not pretend about stuff, to say what I mean and mean what I say.”

Build a team you can trust. I chatted with Elvis Duran about this at Radiodays Europe this year, “Being surrounded by people who get the message and understand that what we do is monumental to so many people. The people we work with and support us are the most important people without them I could never see myself going to work every day by myself. I couldn’t do it.”

Strive to be interesting. ESPN host Colin Cowherd advises host to stop worrying about being right, “Just try to be interesting. It’s not about being right. Guys tend to want to be right instead of get it right. Just be interesting. Try to get it right. Try to find compelling topics that everybody can play along with.”

BJ and Larry

BJ Shea, Larry Gifford, Producer Steve

Everyone knows their role. The BJ Shea Morning Experience in Seattle has a big crew, but everyone has a job. “What I do right is not get in the way, because what I used to do is get in the way” BJ explains his job is to be the host – NOT the producer, “I would think that I have to run the show, I’d have to be part of the planning and I’m an attention-deficit mess. I disrupt everybody else. My ideas are good in the moment, in that manic, bi-polar high moment where, “Holy Cow! This is the greatest idea ever!” and my entire life I have ruined everything because I really shouldn’t be that guy. I should be performing. So, Steve truly is a producer. He is in charge of the whole show. If Steve doesn’t like it, it doesn’t air. And I would say probably – honestly – 10% of my ideas get used. And I give Steve a lot of ideas. But, I also empower him to say this is it. I’m kind of afraid of Steve now. It’s kinda cool. I’ve made Steve the boss of the show to the point that I don’t want to disappoint him.”

Appreciate the audience. “More radio hosts, especially new ones getting into the business, have to get back to basics, understand sports and connecting with their audience,” JT the Brick of Fox Sports Radio refers to sports talk, but his point is actually format-agnostic. “I think there is a big disconnect now between the super successful sports radio hosts who don’t go to any games, don’t meet their audience, and preach to their audience about how good they are or how good their show is or what they believe is the future of sports. Compared to the hosts, hopefully like I am, who continues to want to touch, and shake the hands and kiss the babies and meet these guys, because that is the connection I think you need to have.”

Tom Leykis in his Burbank studio.

Tom Leykis

Create a show filter. A filter helps your focus on the right stories and influence HOW you talk about them. This may not seem like a formula for success for an active rock morning show, but BJ Shea swears it works, “The soul of the show is relationships. Whenever we’re talking about anything I’ll always bring it back to relationships and basically the key relationships are familial, you got your husband/wife, brother/sister, mother/father, and then that of course can translate into the work place. That’s the soul of our show, because it hits everybody.”

Remember radio’s mission. “I’m a radio personality,” says Tom Leykis. “I’m not here to get people elected or get people impeached. I’m here to generate revenue. So many people in our business now have forgotten what our mission is. My mission is to get as many people to listen to your station as possible and then to get advertisers to buy those ears and compensate us so were drowning in money.”

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Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Secrets to Podcasting Success

death-sex-money-1400In May 2014, Anna Sale launched the podcast “Death, Sex & Money” from the studios of WNYC. She had been working in news for public radio in New York City when they asked for ideas for podcasts and she was given a green light to pilot her concept.

In the 10 months that has followed, Anna’s podcast has hit #1 on iTunes and she’s learned a ton about producing a successful podcast. Lucky for us she shared her revelations at Radiodays Europe and with the Radio Stuff Podcast.

“If you’re thinking of starting a podcast just start recording,” Anna told me in the  echo-filled hallway following her session. “When I came up with the idea of “Death, Sex and Money” it was this idea on a piece of paper and I had a sense of what I wanted it to feel like, but the step between that sense and then making something that actually is taped and scripted — that’s the place where you need to be experimenting. So sit down, book an interview, tell somebody you’re in a pilot phase for your podcast, but just do it. That’s going to get you into using those muscles of learning how to make your podcast. I would not think about strategy. I wouldn’t think about audience growth. I wouldn’t think about anything before I started trying to make the show and making sure it was something that I could get really in to and that I’d be proud of.”

During a session titled “30 Ideas in 45 Minutes,” where we both presented ideas, she shared these ideas around the production of a podcast. (Here they are listed as documented by our friends at Earshot Creative.)

RDE2015-23701. Record everything. Always. Start your audio recorder before anything happens.
2. Not getting somewhere in an interview? Just… wait.
3. Edit mercilessly but keep the space. Take out whole chunks of dullness, but retain the human pauses that add to the dramatic tension.
4. Don’t suppress your natural reaction, even when it makes noise. It gives the listener permission to smile and it builds your personality.
5. End with a bold set of compulsory questions. Anna always asks standard, personal, powerful sometimes rude questions that could ruin the dynamic earlier, but provoke great answers at the end.

In our one-on-one discussion Anna and I talked about a few other lessons she has learned.

Podcasts are intimate. Be vulnerable. I asked her how vulnerable she’s been. Anna didn’t hesitate, “I’ve talked about being adrift in my relationships and not knowing if I was ready to commit and having real big questions about what I wanted my life to look like, because I’m a woman in my 30s figuring out if I’m going to have a family, if this was going to be the guy I was going to be with and that was one of the first episodes so that felt pretty vulnerable.” Listen here.

Podcasts are what grow other podcasts. Despite being featured on NPR radio stations across the country through “This American Life,”  the “Death, Sex, and Money” podcast didn’t see an audience impact until the “This American Life” podcast was posted. In hindsight, it makes sense to Anna, “Podcast listeners know how to use podcasts. And so why not go to those listeners first? People are still learning how to use on-demand audio. If you’re not already a podcast listener figuring out that you need podcast player on your phone and how to search and how to download and how to subscribe — there are some steps to that.”

People are still discovering the world of podcasting. Case and point; this was tweeted out this week by “P!nk” who is familiar with radio, but brand new to podcasts;

Podcasts are not broadcasts. Podcasting gives you permission to “go there.” You can presume the audience is ready to go there with you. When doing a radio show you have to assume there are kids in the car, mixed company, and there are the FCC guidelines to consider. Not so much with podcasting. And those weren’t the only differences for Anna, “The thing that was hard was losing all the constraints of radio. A clock is your friend in radio, because you know at a certain point — you just have to talk until 12:01 and the next show is going to come on. And you just have to avoid dead air for that long. In podcasting, you can go for however long you want. You have the freedom to make the podcasts as long as they need to be instead of filling the clock.”

Sharability matters more than news hooks. “I never knew how long the tail of episodes can be, because coming from news it is like you put something up, it goes out and that’s its moment,” Anna said.  “In podcasting, the discoverability is so much longer. So, the idea of making something evergreen and when someone is going to find your podcast — you can’t presume they’re finding it right around the time it comes out. Because, what I’ve noticed is when people discover the podcast then they’ll listen to several episodes and binge listen.”

Add your podcasting tips, insights and secrets to the comments below. Check out all the Radio Stuff Podcast interviews from Radiodays Europe by listening to Episode 94 and Episode 95.

Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.