In radio broadcasting, there is an age-old ritual known as the “aircheck session.” A DJ takes a recording of a recent show into their Program Director's office where they listen to it together and the PD offers constructive criticism. This type of feedback is crucial for up-and-coming on-air talent; it's how they get better.
Unfortunately, in our post-consolidation era, many PDs are spread too thin. With too much to do and not enough time to do it all, aircheck sessions often fall by the wayside. Last year, Jacobs Media conducted the radio industry's first-ever online survey of on-air talent. 40% of the respondents told us that they never get airchecked. To make matters worse, the DJs who need feedback the most — including weekenders, overnighters, and those who do little show prep — are the ones who receive it the least.
When it comes to podcasting, getting feedback is a whole different story. Many entry level podcasters crave feedback, but they have nowhere to get it. I often see new podcasters in Facebook groups asking fellow podcasters to listen to their shows and provide them with some input. The practice of regularly providing feedback comes with a layer of management that, for the most part, the podcasting industry hasn't developed yet. Podcasters don't have Program Directors.
This may change in the coming years. As more and more investment dollars are poured into podcasting, companies will develop a layer of management — call it “bureaucracy” if you prefer — that it doesn't currently have. With this is likely to become institutionalized methods for providing show creators with feedback. In other words, as radio talent finds itself with fewer and fewer opportunities to receive constructive criticism, podcasting talent will find itself with more and more.
Some podcasters will welcome this while others will rebel against it. Some enjoy podcasting because “there are no rules,” while others realize that coaching is key to improving. After all, even Michael Jordan had a coach.
At the Podcast Movement conference in Orlando next month, I will once again host the Podcast Makeover panel, where we provide up-and-coming podcasters with a rare opportunity to receive feedback from industry professionals. Two podcasts will get critiqued live onstage. Our panelists this year include Tom Leykis, a legendary broadcaster and host of the popular Tom Leykis Show, Randy Lane, a talent coach who has worked with everybody from Ryan Seacrest to Jimmy Kimmel, and Vanessa Echols, a TV news anchor at Orlando's WFTV and a podcast host herself. To radio broadcasters, the session will look familiar — even if it's been a while since they've sat through an aircheck themselves. For podcasters, the session offers something that few have ever seen before.
We are currently looking for two podcasts to aircheck live onstage at this session. If you host a podcast, feel free to submit yours:
Radio professionals should be wary of the day when podcasters receive more feedback than broadcasters. It's a sign that one industry is investing heavily in developing new talent, while the other is not. Podcasters, on the other hand, should welcome new opportunities for feedback; it's a sign that you're worth investing in.
P.S. – We've wrapped up the 2019 Air Talent Questionnaire and will be presenting the survey results at Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago next month.