In the early days of the internet, broadcasters tried to use the internet to drive more radio listening. In time, this strategy proved futile, so broadcasters adopted the mantra, “Let’s meet the audience where they are.” They enacted this strategy by trying to create new content for each platform.
Today’s reality is that today every media company is a multi-media company. You radio station may be an audio-first company, but it cannot afford to be an audio-only company.
Yet as more and more platforms have been created, the list of places where radio stations need to meet the audience with content has grown longer and longer: First Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, then Instagram, podcasts, and mobile apps, now Clubhouse, TikTok, and Twitch.
When stations choose to create entirely new content for these different platforms, they quickly discover that this is an unsustainable amount of work heaped upon an already overburdened staff members.
Broadcasters initially tried to reduce the workload by retrofitting their content. Unfortunately, this often produces less than compelling results: A radio morning show stripped of music and ads doesn’t work that well as a podcast, and we’ve all seen hashtag-packed status updates that were obviously written as Instagram posts and then automagically cross-published to Facebook.
Different platforms require content in different forms or else it just doesn’t work.
This has forced radio stations to ration their efforts: Do they create audio or video? Post to Twitter or Snapchat? Produce a live event or a virtual event? But these are false choices…
Create the Content With Multiple Destinations in Mind
When I first started my job consulting radio stations here at Jacobs Media, I quickly learned that rather than creating something new every time a new opportunity arose, I could repackage my content and use it in different settings. For example, I might give a presentation about podcasting at a conference, then use that presentation for a webinar. I could then write a handful of blogposts covering the same material. The basic information was the same, but the format changed depending on the platform that I used to present it.
In the beginning, this repurposing was accidental. Over time, however, I learned to streamline the process. I now know when I write about a topic that I will ultimately want to use that writing in many forms, and I write accordingly. Because I am now proactive when I create content, I spend a lot less time retrofitting my material.
In other words, the structure of my original content has changed to make it easier to use it in different situations later.
I have noticed that cable news channels are also modifying their original content to make it work on different platforms. Once upon a time, in order to consume CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, you needed a television. Not anymore. I am a cord-cutter. I do not subscribe to any cable channels, but I can still listen to cable news in my kitchen on my Amazon Echo. I’ve taken enough road trips with Paul Jacobs to know that he frequently consumes cable news through his car stereo.
Of course, when we consume it that way, we do not get the visual portion of the broadcast, only the audio portion. If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that some of the cable news channels have realized this, and tweaked their programming slightly to accommodate audio-only consumers. When there is a map or chart on the screen, the anchor will often now describe the image for people who can’t see it. It’s a subtle change, but it makes a big difference for those of us who are listening to the programming.
The news channels have modified their original content so that it can be consumed on more platforms, and radio broadcasters can learn from this.
Events Are Content Are Events
Events have long been used as a source of content. For example, the Academy Awards is an event for the Hollywood stars that attend, but it is also content for the viewers who watch it at home. The same is true for sports games or political debates. As the media landscape evolves, we will see the lines between events and content continue to blur. There is the content that we create for an event — host Chris Rock writes jokes — and then there’s the content that is created by the event — the Oscars broadcast.
We’ve seen a rise in tools that make virtual events possible, and increasingly, event producers are adopting a hybrid model, allowing people to attend either in person or online. In doing so, we are using technology to further blur the lines between events and content. If you watch a webinar, are you consuming content or attending an event? The answer is, “Both.” And while I prepare the presentations for my webinars ahead of time, I also walk out with recordings afterwards. The “event” is simply a snapshot of one moment in the content creation process which people can witness in real time.
A radio show is the same thing: It is an event that requires content creation (show prep) ahead of time, but it also produces content that can be used after the fact. The show that people listen to in real time doesn’t come at the end of the process; it comes in the middle. If you’ve planned the show content properly, what you do with the content afterwards — publishing segments on YouTube or as a podcast, posting excerpts on social media, creating show recaps for the website — isn’t laborious retrofitting or unrelated extra work, but rather a smartly planned extension of the show. Your radio show is an event that can be live and virtual and produce video and audio content all at once.
Rethink Radio Shows From the Ground Up
For too long, radio has responded to the rise of new digital platforms with piecemeal bolt-on solutions that ultimately require a lot more work. Instead, broadcasters should pause to strategically rethink their shows, modify the original content, and streamline the process of posting it to multiple destinations. In other words, the way we produce radio shows themselves need to change to allow us to take advantage of all of these new platforms.
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