December 1, 2015

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First Mediaworks

10/20/08 Melding Media

The role of a program director today has changed significantly from days past. Programmers should not only be tuned in to research and the content and sound of their stations, they are now responsible for a mini media conglomerate. Radio stations no longer produce just a daily broadcast; no matter the format, stations today are in the newspaper business and the television business, juggling multiple forms of distribution via Internet and mobile devices.

A few months ago, I wrote about a local newspaper that had purchased a video truck with a microwave mast. The paper showed up local news events, shooting video and getting it "on the air" immediately via its website and e-mail blasts to readers. Meanwhile, a local television station was filming the same events, but not broadcasting them until the 6 o'clock news and only serving video online after the story had been aired. Thir roles had been reversed: The newspaper -- which knew its content was outdated before it hit the press -- had become a trusted local video outlet that was getting the news out first. It was a significant cultural change for the newspaper, which realized that its brand mattered more than its distribution method. By redefining the 100-year-old brand, the paper was able to revive its dying revenues.

But local TV stations are not all playing dead online. In addition to offering video from their newscasts, some stations are featuring additional video produced just for the web. Others have, for all practical purposes, become print journalists, with their websites becoming virtual paperless newspapers. By soliciting citizen journalists, these stations post video from viewers' cellphones that their own cameras could never reach. Television stations are offering podcasts, and some are offering branded video streams in various formats.

Today's radio program director must understand the complexity of the audience, and the interactivity they want and need. This is the first time in history that consumers have had a strong enough feedback mechanism to take control, and mass marketing has become a thing of the past.

A great radio station website allows for user feedback, citizen journalism through audio, video, and the written word, and community video coverage (radio's next big growth arena). It is fully interactive, but every component reflects the essence of the brand and its meaning.

Yes, it is a giant job to keep every element of the station focused on all these things, while also keeping the air talent focused on updating their MySpace and Facebook pages and on Twitter-ing their status moment-by-moment to serve their core listeners. But every radio station must do what listeners expect to remain competitive — and what listeners expect is radio, online, mobile, video, podcasting, and more. And keep in mind that the Web has also empowered new competitors who can create local brands out of thin air and do all of the above, commanding audiences and advertising.
Media is melding, and today's programmer must reflect this new climate. Radio’s reach and power can drive incredible success if we meld our stations into super-local multi-media outlets.

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