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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?

Tuning In To Your Audience

radio-noir-film-tuning-bedroom-search-searching-for-a-station-on-an-old-vintage-radio-sitting-on-a-night-stand-in-a-bedroom-concept-listen-to-the-music-remember-the-past-film-noir-black-and-white-version_n1_mr9xk__S0000I am not a regular church goer. Last Sunday though, in the wake of shootings and protests and chaos in Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Dallas and elsewhere, my family decided maybe we needed a community, some perspective, or maybe we wanted someone, somewhere to tell us everything is going to be okay. Whatever the reason, we researched and found a church that held “social justice” as one of its pillars.

Perfect.

We were present, ready, and waiting.

And we waited.

Not a word was spoken about the senseless shootings, the racial divide, Black Lives Matter or anything. In truth, more was said about it during the MLB All Star Game’s Canadian National Anthem.

This church had a program, a plan, a scheduled service carefully mapped out likely weeks in advance. But they missed an opportunity to connect with the congregation in a moment. It reminded me of a news-talk radio station that fails to “play the hit” when a big story breaks, because guests have been booked and topics have been researched.

When big events happen, the most recent in Nice, France, people seek community, support, context and a sense of security. They seek it out on their radio and if they don’t immediately find what they need, they scan the dial.

Radio plays an important role in informing and connecting our communities, whether it is bad weather in the region or terror around the world. When big stories break, it is our responsibility to report facts, seek the truth, provide context, help when we can, and grieve, rally, and organize when needed. We can be a beacon of hope, a stage for disagreement, and a voice of calm in the face of the inexplicable.

When we fail to recognize that we don’t just lose listeners and revenue, we lose an important connection and leadership role in the community — one I believe we shouldn’t so quick to surrender. Who knows who or what may fill the void.

Our Multi-Platform World

rtdna-logo-updated-mainIt is certainly not a new idea, but from the first answer of the first session “in the Bear Pit,” at the 2016 RTDNA Canada National convention in Toronto, “multi-platform” was on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

A big priority for Troy Reeb, Corus /Global VP of News, Radio and Station Operations, is to “build out news talk on multi-platforms.” He stressed the importance of following the audience, which he notes “has a good appetite for good storytelling.”

At CTV, President Wendy Freeman is encouraging her team to “do everything” in the ongoing fight for more eyeballs on their content. And she stressed that in this evolving world, “everybody does everything.”

There are even multi-platform content units and assignment editors at CBC now. But GM and Editor in Chief Jennifer McGuire insists the government subsidized digital news teams is just serving the public’s best interest and it’s just how the are connecting to their audience. (Reeb wondered aloud if an 1,100 person digital team wasn’t a bit extreme. McGuire assured him they weren’t all in news.)

At the radio news panel, reporters shared stories of having to carry two cell phones, a Marantz, and a selfie-stick so they can record audio, take videos, pictures, live tweet and record video stand-ups for video packages that are expected after the radio report, web story, and social is complete. All done from their car on an iPhone before being dispatched their next assignment. AM 640 Program Director Nathan Smith added, “Radio isn’t cut any slack on digital, because we are radio. The audience expects multimedia coverage.”

Multi-platform audience measurement was also a topic. The future of measurement is in being able to track users as they transition from device to device throughout each day. A concept which could become too invasive on panelists if not done elegantly. And we’re closer to that reality than we think, according to Numeris EVP Lisa Eaton, “We know, throughout the day, what people are doing.” (Editor’s note: creepy.)

Former Al Jazeera America TV anchor Ali Velshi sobered up the room with a reality check. He preached about how radio and TV have enjoyed perpetuating a good thing, but despite continued monetization we have a false belief that radio and TV are still relevant and we are on a road to oblivion. The newly monikered “Multimedia content creator” dreams of a virtual reality world where he reads the news to each person personally in the form of an avatar. Velshi also insists operations like VICE News have an edge because they aren’t having to defend legacy systems and processes and can go straight to innovation and experimentation. He added, “I’ve come to believe we need to embrace digital NOT as an adjunct, but to fully replace radio and TV.” He was passionate that our digital plans should be completely disrupting our traditional platforms and should be capable of destroying the current radio and TV models.

It’s certainly food for thought. The world is changing fast and we need to more than keep up, we need to be on the front lines trailblazing and creating the future.

Missed Opportunities

In the past week I have offered part-time work to interns. They both declined the offer choosing instead to pursue opportunities that are more aligned with their career goals. I wondered aloud on twitter if this is the new reality for radio and it seemed to strike a nerve.

 

Some offered to take the jobs on their behalf including a couple peers from their school and one woman who has no broadcast training at all.

I am not pointing fingers at all millennials suggesting this is a generation of slackers. I know that’s not the case, because many of the millennials I’ve had the pleasure to work with are dogged, creative, hard-working and very talented. I am suggesting some inexperienced broadcasters are undervaluing actual experience. Perhaps it’s a false confidence created by the internet where anyone can become a broadcaster through their personal computer. Why work odd hours or off-air “button pushing” jobs to climb the ladder when I can create “radio” in my dorm room?

I am suggesting some broadcast students aren’t considering the power of relationships and networking. Every job I’ve been offered started with an introduction from a friend or colleague. I have never been hired by someone who I wasn’t within three degrees of separation. I have blanketed North American with resumes though my career and not one resume I sent to a total stranger lead to anything more than a “thank you for applying.”

New broadcasters may also be dismissing the value of gaining experience on a live broadcast where there are standards, expectations, and big dollars on the line. Talking into a microphone and recording a podcast is one thing, having the responsibility to deliver news or traffic information or be responsible for airing thousands of dollars’ worth of commercials is another.

I appreciate candor, bold decisions and determination. The interns that rejected my overture for part time work have that. I wish them well. I will only offer this. As a broadcast student I reluctantly interned in the news department of a radio station. I had no interest in news. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a host. But, I was good at news, discovered I loved it, and it lead to my first real radio job and a career I am proud of. You never know where opportunities, connections and experience will take you.

Navigating Change

Change is scary and uncomfortable for most people.

It just is.

Humans like to know they are safe and secure. We want to know we have enough money for food and someplace hospitable to rest our head at night. So, when pink slips start flying like they did at KGO last week in San Francisco or organizations are merged and realigned like Corus Entertainment last week in Canada, fear takes hold. It’s instinctual.

But resisting change is actually more lethal for entertainment and information industries like radio (see: music industry, Blockbuster Video, newspapers). There is hope and opportunity in change. You just have to be willing to see it and seize it.

Yes, what happened in San Francisco to KGO is tragic. It was a juggernaut of a radio station that has slowly and systematically been starved of resources and been a victim of benign neglect. The dedicated staffers who were sent packing after years of pouring their heart into a product deserve better. They tried to find a small part of a corporate beast they could love and quickly realized the beast was indscriminate. But now they are free. Unschackled. No longer beholden to a dream of yesterday’s KGO. There is life after KGO right Gil Gross??

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Right Claudia Lamb?  (Article: KGO and the Death of Radio)

In Canada, a completely different scenario. Not one of downsizing and cost-cutting but of investing and growing. Eerily, employees feel similar. Corus just completed a $2.6B acquisition of Shaw Media and new corporate structures were unveiled. The questions came fast and furious; Why? Where’s this worked before? What’s it mean for me? How can this possibly work? When are they going to fire me? Don’t they know we’ve never done it this way before?

Fear. It’s contagious.

differentKeep in mind, change isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s just different. When companies change it often creates opportunities. New managers, new faces, new processes and procedures and fresh eyes on old problems. It doesn’t have to be scary. It should be exciting. Anytime you get to work for a leader who has bold vision and a sense of purpose and direction embrace it, champion it, and rejoice. The opposite is stagnation. The opposite is KGO.

It reminds me of a phrase I quickly learned while working at ESPN; “evolve or face extinction.” In the past week, we’ve seen this played out in both directions in dramatic fashion.

 

Inspiration and Desperation

WTOP-Twitter-Main-B-v2I listened to 10 hours of streaming, on-demand radio and podcasts. Non-stop. I didn’t seek out fringe offerings. I was doing due diligence to hear what some consider to be the best news and talk offerings the U.S. has to offer.

I was duly impressed with the juggernaut that is WTOP – “Washington’s TOP News.” Always a ratings and revenue winner. The powers that be, and I assume Jim Farley is to credit, have found the delicate balance between authoritative and approachable, credible in content and casual or accessible in delivery. They make it seem natural and easy. It’s not. All radio news folk should listen to the morning drive team as inspiration.

That’s the good news.

What I encountered for most of my 10 hours of sensory assault was racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, thoughtless garbage. Some of America’s iconic radio stations and shows are stuck in the past. They are unaware, unstructured, unprepared, and undermining radio’s credibility and relevance. It makes me wonder who is minding the store. Who is coaching talent, air-checking, providing vision and evolving the product to exceed the expectations of the listeners? From offensive Asian accents and decades old stereotypes to provoking coworkers to assault each other with racist and sexist insults. It really is the worst that radio has to offer.

And apparently iHeartMedia and Cumulus don’t care, because… why? The shows/talent are generating too much revenue, they don’t scrutinize content only numbers, or they really don’t care what people think. It is a shame that radio has to suffer for these fools. There are too many pros doing remarkable radio that the industry should be defined by lazy, uninspired, reactionary, out of touch offerings like I experienced.

We must expect more from our peers.

For the Love of Radio

i_love_radio_heart_custom_personalized_classic_white_coffee_mug-r48e96857f513422a96f6bd1523d826a1_x7jgr_8byvr_512The other day my six-year-old son and I were in the home studio. I was cleaning up some stuff from past video sessions and he made a bee-line for the mixing board. He grabbed the headphones, dramatically adjusted the faders, grabbed the mic and yelled into the microphone so loud it made engineers up and down the California coast cry, “IN THE NEWS… IT”S RAINING. NO RACE GAME TODAY! GOODBYE.” He giggled at hearing his own voice filling the space between his ears.

Then it hit me.

Radio and audio is still magic to him.

He’s not been jaded by anyone telling that radio is dying or cliché or uncool. He just knows we listen to radio and podcasts a lot and Mommy and Daddy seem to like them, so he’s curious, engaged and wants to know how it works.

d136622e0238b99f8123565d9cfaf96eThat’s how I found radio too. My Dad was an avid radio listener. I believe one year we counted 20 radios in our home and some had nick-names because they were for special uses. For example, his radio for listening to Red’s baseball was the Big Red Machine. The near non-stop chatter of ballgames and the local full service radio station combined with my desire to speak into every microphone I came across was a potent combination to fall in love with radio.

It hit me.

Radio and audio was magic to me.

And it still is.

For Valentine’s Day let’s remember how we fell in love with this medium and why we still love it. A renewing of the vows for our commitment to radio.

I take you, radio, to be my inspiration.

To care for and create,

In sickness (buy your own mic sock) and in health,

For richer or poorer, (usually poorer)

Until video / CDs / MP3s / Apple Music / Podcasts/ apathy kills you off.

Forevermore.

Add your radio love story in the comments!