When discussing technology and especially social media with clients, I’m often told about how certain personalities and DJs struggle with using tools like Facebook or Twitter. As we’ve learned over the years, not everyone is comfortable and adept with skills like blogging or creating podcasts.
But the potential is there for personalities to connect on new avenues with the audience, and to get their messages across in new media outlets. In the world of high-profile journalism, one such example is a very unlikely one: Dan Rather.
As many know, the venerable TV newsman left the airwaves under less than ideal circumstances back in 2005 following a controversial report he anchored on “60 Minutes.”
Today at 85 years-old, you would expect him to have a quiet retirement, perhaps spending time fly fishing or writing his memoirs. Instead, he’s become a prolific and high-profile Facebook poster, successfully breaking the so-called social media rules. And he’s killing it in the social space.
Rather has become a bona fide voice in this 2016 Presidential campaign. While media journalists are taking a pounding these days, Rather has risen above the fray, finding his voice on Facebook by providing incisive and popular commentary.
As of this writing, Rather has more than 460,000 likes on Facebook, and his posts regularly earn thousands of shares. You have to believe the vast majority of this interaction is coming from a demographic considerably younger than his old viewing audience from “The CBS Evening News.” Rather is providing a running commentary to this controversial election, providing the kind of perspective he’s famous for – but in an entirely different setting.
Rather also has deviated from the Facebook convention that suggests the most effective posts are just a paragraph or two. A typical post might contain hundreds of words across many paragraphs. And his writing is resonating with many thousands of fans, eager to get his take on Clinton, Trump, and where America stands amidst the turmoil of our times.
Rather explained it to The Daily Beast this way:
“I just said, What the hell. I want to be myself. I want to do the kind of journalism I was trained to do in the tradition I grew up – the Murrow tradition, the CBS tradition.”
Realizing he was un-hirable by any TV network, Rather sought out his own distribution outpost, a Facebook page. He has combined his authentic voice with the world’s largest social media platform – and he’s thriving.
Rather admits he’s still finding is way around Facebook. As he told The Daily Beast’s Ben Collins, “If one wants to practice journalism going forward, you’ve gotta be involved on the Internet. It’s imperative.”
He could have been talking about music and talk radio or any other creative discipline. The Internet is more than a challenge – it’s an opportunity to be heard and to interact with his audience. For an old school journalist like Rather, this dialogue with his fans is a new wrinkle:
“…It’s a conversation – people talk to you – and it’s not always complimentary. What’s been built here is a community of people who indicated that they have some trust that I will try to talk at least sanely about what’s going on.”
Rather’s success on Facebook should stimulate radio personalities who have around for decades that experimentation in the social and podcasting spaces isn’t just smart – it’s essential to their survival and longevity.
That’s why it’s important to take note of the many radio “old timers” who are thriving in the post-consolidation world of radio by stepping out and innovating in the digital space.
In Minneapolis, Tom Barnard is the poster boy for podcasting success, creating an extremely successful on-demand empire apart from his dominant morning show on KQRS. Tom always needed that additional outlet – a place where he could express himself in an untethered environment. For him, the podcasting ecosphere is that perfect space where he can extend his influence, his opinions, and his career.
Our jacapps team recently created an app for his podcasts – another digital manifestation of the Tom Barnard brand. Like Rather, Tom is feeling his way around the Internet, unafraid to try new things and take on some risks.
In Baltimore, veteran rock jock, WIYY’s Kirk McEwen, deftly uses Facebook to connect his various worlds – his love of the Baltimore Ravens (his station carries the play-by-play broadcasts), rock n’ roll, his community and causes, and his life.
McEwen is an everyday poster, using video and pictures to tell stories, and connect listeners with his passions. On Facebook, his personality comes through in an entertaining and upbeat way that :60 talk breaks on the radio simply can’t do justice to. The infinite nature of posts allows Kirk to express himself without the boundaries of time and space.
Then there’s Preston & Steve, the morning juggernauts at WMMR in Philadelphia. Several years ago, Greater Media made the investment in cameras and video switching equipment for their state of the art air studio.
The result was “Daily Rush,” a video recap of one of the best moments from that day’s show. These every day videos create a whole new way of enjoying their show, helping the audience put faces with names, and making their bits come alive in the ever-popular video format.
For Preston & Steve and their cast of characters, “Daily Rush provides an additional outlet that helps them connect with fans, as well as another opportunity for advertisers and marketers to cash in on their popularity in a highly competitive radio market.
There are so many others who have made the dive into the Internet waters, finding new paths to connect their brands with the audience. There’s not enough space to mention them all here. Not only does digital distribution allow personalities to create content that’s an extension of what they do on the air, it provides them with an avenue to reach younger fans in a setting that allows for interaction.
Still, there are many others who struggle with the space, unsure of how to get started or where to go. For them, the best advice comes from a grizzled veteran like Rather who has crafted a new career on Facebook, thanks to his insatiable curiosity, his intuitive nature, and his lack of fear about trying something new.
As he reminds us all:
“It’s the future.”
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 1,000 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.