Back in May tensions boiled over between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the studio chiefs in Hollywood represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). As of the publishing of this blog that strike continues and now includes actors in the SAG-AFTRA union. The first thing impacted were all the nightly comedy shows because unlike movies and TV they didn’t have everything already in the can. Soon this multi-month strike will affect virtually everything in theaters, on television and the streaming services creating a huge content void that will last for the back half of this year and much of early 2024. But what does that mean for the radio industry? It gives us an opportunity to step up and fill that content void, because we’re well positioned to do so and if we don’t others will. Here are a few ways radio can fill that void.
Require all broadcasters to podcast. I’ve never fully understood our hold up with going all in on podcasting because no one is better suited to dominate the industry than trained professional broadcasters. But, I’m encouraged to see more radio folks starting podcasts every year. It’s not a passing fad, podcasting is here to stay. Plus, ad revenue is rapidly increasing and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t require big stats to begin monetizing. It’s also easier than ever. There are multiple options for hosting sites that will get our podcasts on every platform necessary. Here are five I recommend for broadcasters. The equipment has also come a long way allowing us to affordably turn unused offices or studios into audio/video podcast studios or retrofit all of our on-air and production studios for the same. All that being said, not unlike a successful on-air show, all podcasts should have a strategy, a structure and a reason for existing.
Step up our video game. Immediately when the writers’ strike hit podcast numbers spiked on both the audio and video platforms because most of the major podcast players were already doing a better job utilizing video in longform on YouTube and shortform on social media than we were. They do that out of necessity because video is an effective way to promote a podcast if you don’t own a bunch of terrestrial radio stations to promote them on. It also helps that they’re set up to do so because they are trained on video editors and have at least a working knowledge of lighting and camera equipment. There’s no reason we can’t do the same. Anyone that’s good at audio editing can be taught to edit video well enough to create web videos. Plus, today’s cameras are incredibly user friendly (NOTE: don’t spend 10 grand or more on one unless you have a videographer on staff who knows how to use all the bells and whistles of a $10,000 camera or it will gather dust in the engineering room). Lighting is a little trickier to master but that’s all the more reason to setup our studios to be permanently lit well for video (If we have to bring in lights and cameras and spend thirty minutes to an hour setting it up every time we want to shoot video, we’ll rarely shoot videos). We all know we need to do more with video content. So why not use this content void as an opportunity to do so.
Roll on everything. How many times have you said to yourself, ‘we should’ve been recording this?’ The more we can record everything that happens in a studio the better. Many off-air conversations are what I call ‘inside baseball’ stuff that would be boring to listeners, finalizing what we’re going to do on the next break, editing audio and phone calls, discussing clock management or engaging with listeners on the web or social media. But, there’s a chance some of that could be packaged and edited together to show diehard P1s what goes into creating some of their favorite on-air features, benchmarks or contests. Also, sometimes those discussions putting the finishing touches on a content break lead to some interesting but ‘too risqué to air’ conversations that could make for some good web or podcast content once edited. Either way, we might as well record it all just in case. This is our version of B-roll.
Get creative and develop a content strategy. Successful on-air shows, especially team shows, have a process for planning their on-air content that they’ve fine-tuned over time to allow them to walk into the studio each day with 80% or more of their show already planned. The same rule should apply to our digital content. Each station should have a digital content strategy that involves all on-air talent incorporating digital into the prep process so they’re thinking about what and how to create digital components of at least some of their on-air content while they’re in prep-mode. The other low hanging fruit is taking some of the things we’re already doing programming wise, music selection, contesting, on-air promos and events and create digital content around those (web blogs/posts, social videos/posts). Then we schedule all of that ahead of time and supplement it with organic posts throughout the week. Point is, we’re already doing tons of things that could easily be expanded to digital, we just have to train ourselves to look for those opportunities to capture, create and share that content.
Get the whole team involved. I’ve written and said this often, but that’s because it’s true. Digital content creation is a team sport. It shouldn’t be delegated to just one web or social person, every single person on staff should get involved. We’re all running way too lean to be able to pull it off the old way. That being said, it’s still necessary to identify and play to each team members strengths, empower them to create content by giving them the tools and training to do so and when the budget allows it hire specialists (video editors/graphic designers/writers) or use freelancers and companies like ours to supplement the content your staff creates.
The current and upcoming content void is a real opportunity for radio, but it won’t last long. Eventually the strikes will end and the machine in Hollywood will restart and resume as normal. Let’s take advantage of this window to step up our digital game and steal some market share.
What do you think? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.