State Of The Union … at News/Talk Radio

Don’t worry, this post is not as long as Tuesday night’s State of the Union.  Actually, I can summarize the way I saw news/talk radio coverage of the address in one word:  “disappointing.”  Forget that most news junkies are watching on television.  Forget that Fox News Channel, CNN, even MSNBC will have the big name pundits your station can’t book.  Forget the speech may run as late as 10:30 in the East.  Forget that your AM station may have a limited signal or pattern at night.  It doesn’t matter.  My random check of a dozen news/talk stations around the country left much to be desired.

Music Formats, don’t stop reading.  I’ll have a challenge for you at the end!

The always focused Mark Ramsey sent me a Tweet early into the President’s address which said, “Failing grade on audience interaction during #SOTU:  KFI…WINS…Bueller?…Bueller?”  (From @markramseymedia.  Follow me on Twitter @scottsandsmedia.)  The “positioning statement” for Mark’s company is simply “sync radio and digital media” – which you think might be easy for such a major political event that lends itself so naturally to the news/talk format.

  • Video stream the speech from your website
  • Live chat room in a window next to the video stream, moderated by one of your personalities
  • Real-time Tweets of key points as they’re made
  • Dialogue between talent and listeners using Facebook’s comment feature on your station’s wall
  • Listener calls and local analysis from your station’s talent immediately following
  • Database Email immediately following the speech with reaction from your state’s representatives and teases for coverage on the morning show
  • Simple link to speech replay as audio or video podcast or PDF of the text
  • Text Messaging
  • And those are just a few things radio could have done, without even getting creative with different ways to interact with listeners.

I checked a dozen news/talk stations, at random.  Without naming the culprits, would you believe more than 60% did not have a video stream?  That should be unacceptable for news/talk websites.  Hell, even Jojo on KIISfm/LA had a video stream from his page.  Thankfully, almost half of the stations I monitored had local hosts take calls afterwards – WWL in New Orleans had their star, Bob Mitchell, back in the studio for hosting duties and 700 WLW in Cincinnati, had all three of their marquee talent, including Bill Cunningham, co-host the after party.  A handful of the stations I checked had Facebook posts about their coverage, some with a few comments.  Only KTLK Minneapolis received a significant number of listener comments (more than 55 when last checked).  However, I did not see any of the stations come back to engage listeners with follow-up comments or questions.  I only subscribe to a few news/talk station newsletters; but, none sent me a post-speech message.

My survey was certainly not scientific.  I may have overlooked something great from one of the stations; or may have missed great coverage on hundreds of stations not in my Favorites.  Still, if I were a listener of many of these stations, I would have felt underwhelmed.  If you’re a news/talk PD, I would love to know what you did tonight or if you disagree with my analysis.  Leave a comment below.

Okay, now my challenge to Pop formats.  It’s pretty simple, really:  don’t miss an opportunity to interact with your audience!

  • Real-time commentary, interacting with listener comments, on Facebook during lifestyle events — Grammy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards, even during the Super Bowl as the commercials air.  It makes sense for regular pop culture juggernauts like The Bachelor, Glee, American Idol, or Jersey Shore.
  • Polls are completely under-utilized by most radio stations..  Ask the question on air, tease the results, get people to the web for interaction.
  • Set up a text messaging group for people who want to know the winner of major awards in real time.
  • Leverage predictive contesting assets from your rewards program, such as those offered by Triton Loyalty — not just for points, but solicit predictions from your air staff and local celebrities.
  • Do you have a strong relationship with an artist or celebrity who can be your station’s reporter at the awards shows?  Or, can you find a friend in LA willing to camp out on the red carpet and record a segment for your morning show?
  • Be THE pop culture experts for your market.  Your talent should be the one television comes to interview for recaps.  Your talent could write entertainment blogs for the television stations or newspaper (actually, it should be a video blog produced clips).
  • Produce a local awards show for local celebrities and performers.
  • Viewing Parties – keep in mind, a “Grammy Party” at the local techno dance club may not turn out great – but, smaller parties are actually better for listeners.  Rent a hotel suite for 10 listeners and the morning show to watch together and stream it live to your website.
  • The possibilities are endless.  These are just some basic, fundamental ideas that most stations will not execute.  Do it and you’ll stand out from the rest.

It doesn’t have to be “more work” for your talent or promotional team.  They should be watching these shows to prepare daily content (at least one person, come on); and, someone on your team probably loves one of the “hot shows” already.  We’re all permanently connected to our Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, iPad, or laptop while on the couch.  It’s not that much effort to interact.  Hell, they may even find it fun.  Start small, but get your station and your talent to engage with listeners and you will benefit.

Radio, to steal a line from the President’s speech, this is your Sputnik moment.

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