Fans of The Daily Show may be thinking it will never be the same because of Jon Stewart’s departure, and the many question marks surrounding his replacement, Trevor Noah.
But you don’t know the half of it. Comedy Central announced last week the hiring of Baratunde Thurston, author, humorist, and social activist to oversee new digital content creation and distribution.
And what makes this interesting is that it was exactly ten years ago that Jon Stewart waved off questions about distribution, saying he only concerned himself with his political satire. In his mind, he and his staff were charged with creating the humorous content. How it would be delivered was someone else’s problem, or something that future producers would confront. Well, the future is now.
Interviewed in Wired, Stewart’s quote (shown in the photo above) became a popular part of our digital presentations, as well as this blog. Back in 2009, we discussed how radio stations needed to be concerned about “the trucks,” better known as content distribution. You can read that post – “Delivering the Donuts” – here.
These days, The Daily Show brain trust is looking at the media world much differently, and not just because Stewart is passing the torch to Noah. The New York Times reports that Thurston’s hiring (he was formerly with The Onion) signals a change of strategy for the show. He outlined their new digital plan of attack:
“There’s more to what The Daily Show can make than what people have seen. This is a 21-and-a-half minute show that airs on a box in your house, and it can also be a great experience on these other platforms.”
In the entire article, Nielsen is never mentioned. That’s because their team is now thinking outside the program schedule and beyond the ratings, focusing on content in places where their viewers congregate – in their own time. It’s an acknowledgment they’re rethinking their entire distribution model, and not just the content creation process.
So let’s put it in radio-ese.
Your morning show (minus the music, commercials, service elements) may be creating approximately an hour of content every day (of course it varies). But much of that lives pretty much on the transmitter/tower site. Where else can you create exclusive content on the channels your listeners frequent that go beyond your daypart and your air? How can you provide a great experience on the other platforms your audience uses?
You first have to have an understanding of the sites, channels, and destinations they frequent. This is why the 200+ stakeholder commercial stations (and the 50 public radio stations) that participate in our Techsurveys have an actionable data set that defines their audience's channel consumption. They’re learning where their audience is going when they’re not listening to radio.
For The Daily Show, this means Instagram and other channels. The article notes that Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon have each mined digital media well, creating a challenge to all TV producers to create viral content that can expand the audience, as well as explode the boundary lines of a conventional time slot.
In many ways, The Daily Show will be playing a game of catch-up, as they rethink how they create chunks of content that will be customized to distribution outlets that have nothing to do with a cable TV channel. Not surprisingly, Stephen Colbert has been busily creating content of all digital sorts during his long hiatus prior to moving into the old Letterman slot on CBS-TV next week.
Speaking of which, radio teams, personalities, and programmers themselves would be wise to take note of this digital activity on the TV side of the street. Historically, television's talk show hosts have influenced radio DJs, especially David Letterman. His heavily benchmarked, bit-oriented strategy inspired hundreds of radio personalities to develop funny bits, time stamp them, and executive them every day like clockwork.
That strategy has paid off for many radio personalities, riding the wave of go-to features like “War of the Roses,” and other staples of morning radio. That no longer may be enough, as The Daily Show team has figured out. The move to digital and social platforms by TV's new guard should be having the same influence on radio's stars of today as Letterman did three decades ago on the DJs of that era.
Podcasts, video, and social media have often been viewed as burdens by many in radio – new channels that require even greater time, effort, and education. But challenging that logic and embracing these new outlets makes a world of sense for a medium that is under pressure to stay relevant to both listeners and advertisers. As the TV guys have learned, these new distribution channels offer fertile environments in which to expand brands, grow audiences, and create new content that just doesn't work in a standard daypart or in a PPM-pressurized break.
Learning how to “make donuts” and skillfully “driving those trucks” are the profound challenges in front of radio’s air personalities and the companies they work for.
The need for corporate teams and ownership to embrace these concepts, and provide guidance and financial support has never been greater.
Time to enroll in truck driving school. And please pass the donuts.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.