Mike Lee is the co-founder of Brown Bag Productions and is currently the President of HD/FX, which produces DOWNLOAD HD™, a content service with more than two million pieces of audio and written material servicing over 300 US radio clients. Mike writes for Radio Today about 'big content'.
Content sure has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. And radio is no exception. Content has been hailed as king, savior, focal point, difference maker and cash cow, among many other accolades. It’s almost as if it’s something new.
Of course, we know that’s not true. It has just taken a long while to be recognized amid the politics, egos, power structure and format fervor that have long plagued radio.
We now know that content has a long and hallowed future in radio. We just don’t quite know what content is. We’re almost positive it is music, news, sports, commercials, jokes, contests, sweepers, promos and, occasionally, just plain bad taste. Our problem may be that we look at content as purveyors of it instead of as listeners. We are influenced too much by the history of radio and not enough by unencumbered imagination.
Whatever you think of as content is probably just too narrow. That has a lot to do with an unhealthy reverence for the tradition of radio. Like clocks. Like demographics. And perhaps especially, like formats. Formats inherently limit your imagination and delude you into believing that only certain types of content are appropriate for your audience. Like sports has less value for a female oriented AC station. Like sensitive personal topics are not in line with the interests of the rock audience. While those content inhibitions are easy to detect, the insidious danger of limiting content in a broader sense is rampant.
Radio has tended to focus on music, lifestyles and general weird events for decades. Just because someone listens to a CHR station doesn’t mean they share the same zeal for the artists or celebrity gossip or a three legged panda bear living on a kangaroo’s head. And because those, and a chance to win $1,000 by writing down all the songs that were played at the top of the hour for the last three weeks, are what we’ve fed listeners, we believe that’s what they want.
And it may be. But not to the exclusion of everything else.
All stations in a format are playing similar songs, beating celebrity news to death, running contests that have been re-worked ad nauseum since we were in the womb. The same is true for news and sports stations that hammer the same stories and celebrities around the clock. It is a severely limited view of content. And it will not differentiate your station from others in the format.
As a creator and aggregator of original content, I can safely say that the universe of content is staggering. Information and entertainment are not only vast but also more accessible than ever before. Finding the best stuff and deciding how to best present it to your audience is the challenge.
There are many examples of content that are of general interest and largely ignored by radio. One is living tips, be they about household, medical or financial matters. They are very short and apply equally to rocker, mother or executive. Another is factoids, be they laws of life, science bytes or quick quotes. There is trivia and top ten lists and cool stats. Most of this content is quick and timeless. It can be delivered by air talent or produced into short capsules.
Listeners listen faster than they did before. That means we shouldn’t be boring them with content that takes longer to present than it should. We need to respect their time. We need to respect their intellect. And we need to throw off the inhibitions of formats and radio history while we explore the adventure of Big Content.
Mike Lee is the co-founder of Brown Bag Productions, winner of the Silver Screen Award, the Billboard Radio Award and seven Telly awards and a worldwide audience of two billion people. Mike is presently the President of HD/FX, which produces DOWNLOAD HD™, a content service with more than two million pieces of audio and written material and 300 US radio clients. Mike gave the keynote address to the Audio Engineering Society in Melbourne in 1988, and presented a paper to the Nielsen seminar in Sydney in 1993.