Radio: You don’t care about your listeners

I see this write up not going down to well with you already.  

But give me a chance to extend on the title of this blog post, and hopefully come to see the highlights of asking ourselves this important question:  does your radio station care about me?

“Care” about you.  This a free public service that has one job.  To keep you happy. For the 20 or so minutes you might have to yourself in the morning, before your day goes full throttle. Maybe it’s as your daily passive companion while you kill time at the gym or while you’re in public transport. Perhaps it’s your provider of information and insight on current affairs and diverse conversations around thoughts and opinions, that is your day’s private indulgence?

That sounds wonderful, right? The perfect fit for the perfect medium.

But.  This means you ACTUALLY work for them.  The listener. You should be working for them.  An obvious statement. But do you?

Are stations around the world keeping the listener in mind?  All the time? That’s actually very difficult for any station to answer.  Even for the best of the best, of the best.

I watched the conference that hosted Coleman Insights last year in Hollywood, where they highlighted  “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station”.  The insight of their presentation was around how much we overestimate the loyalty we get from listeners.  Just because we are here doing great radio, we assume we have an actively involved audience that is ready to do quite a lot for their radio station.  This isn’t true though.

We are, however in fact, still important.  To the listeners lifestyle, that is.  Coleman Insights stand by the statement that radio stations are forgetting about modern age technological living and mass diverse changes in people’s lives.  And even still. How we manage, construct, create and converse radio today – is still very important. So what do we do?

Let me repeat.  To their lifestyle.  Not to their lives. We have to adjust to their incredibly dynamic lifestyles.

It’s a big deal.  With massive duty.

We are in a very “trial, test, doom, and unknown” phase in radio.  We are starting to only get a real grasp on what fits where, how much it is of what needs to be out there and where it should be, where the onslaught of social media has REALLY robbed us of a market’s attention, and of course, the constantly changing ways we have to accommodate listeners lives in a consistently changing lifestyle landscape.

I know stations out there are trying their best.  In South Africa, some have opened “off air” channels that supply you with a 12-24 hour music service, some podcasts and even some prerecorded presenter links to personalise the experience.  It’s cool in theory. But I can’t expect that this is a reason why your numbers will be going up. It sounds like a costly, and ineffective way to remain relevant. Here in South Africa, we are definitely not close to that type of devotion yet.  Does it mean we don’t have to start somewhere? Absolutely not. We need to, however, not risk losing focus on what needs to happen right now, and stop chasing ten different goals like chickens without heads.

We had 702 currently release digital transmission with the Amazon Alexa.  This is again, very impressive and pretty bad-ass – but no one cares.  They really don’t. There are stations that are jumping several guns here, while the rest of the industry is struggling to stay on air, period.

Then there are some stations that are doing great things by keeping their focus on core fundamentals, and expanding opportunities to strengthen listener loyalty.

East Coast Radio did well with their 24-hour user playlist promotion, giving the listeners free reign over their music choice for a full day.  Simple. But the listeners are there and they love it. Reaching the “Top 10 most listened to” stations in South Africa comes with giving your listener what they need, which conveniently turns into what they want.

Kaya FM’s remodelled approach to how they objectively offer current affairs and diversity in their listeners lives has definitely grown their listenership loyalty.  And their YouTube views and podcast plays are proof of that. Being a necessary choice to what their listener wants to be a part of in a lifestyle decision.

iKwekwezi FM’s Pastor Maria Jacobs chose to visit inmates in Witbank for a revival ceremony recently (which you might be rolling your eyes over) – but they are a PBS station that is committing to servicing their public on a “touch, feel and see” basis.  Which station can say that their listeners are tuned in for an average of 3 and a half hours? iKwekwezi can.

So what are you doing wrong when all the TSL you can hone in for is an average of 15 – 25 min?

We are quick to judge the simpler approaches to regaining and regrowing a listenership in basic and “nonintellectual” ways.  But it works. Give people what they need, and it will be what they want.

Talk Radio Vitals

Ah, the exciting world of talk radio.  How exciting?  Well, in a world dominated by fake news and social media, it should get anyone’s goose going by knowing that you can tune into a show where factual information reigns supreme.  As much as music radio is the “end-goal” of fame and popularity to most radio presenters – talk radio has longevity.  Longevity when it comes to the everyday lifestyle of your listener.   This doesn’t take away any importance to what music radio offers their listeners.  It would be a cardinal sin to compare the two, so let’s not.

Back to talk radio.

We want to listen to talk shows and a host that is deeply infatuated by conversation.   Conversation that is relevant, informative, provocative and dynamic.  Current affairs will always be the first in your content choice, but make sure you don’t lose touch with what is happening around your listener’s street corner.  What are they worried about or aspiring for today?  Where are they spending their spare time and what are they doing?  What is happening in their world that the platform of radio can do to let them be heard?  Look at everything, from their personal lives to their shopping carts – and always develop content and shows that elevate what is, and what they want their lives to concede to.

Find out what is making their world tick and keep it going.

Here are some closing thoughts.

      • Being well-prepared.  In fact, borderline a case of being over-prepared.  Talk show hosts have to be ready for a number of things to go wrong – and rarely have no music break to save them.
      • Be sure that you have all your guests confirmed. Have a backup guest list just in case.
      • Be a conversation starter.  Let your links help the listener think on the topic at hand.  Give them a lot to think about. This can come from facts or opinions, what is trending or what might be unusual, but new thoughts on a subject matter.
      • Be inviting.  Listeners need to know that this is a welcomed platform for them to take part in, message and chat about with the show host and guests.
      • You can still be confident without being condescending.  Don’t alienate guests and listeners with an attitude that is poor.
      • Be respectful.  Yes. People will have different opinions than yours. Welcome them, and immerse the conversation further.